Man plays dead to escape lynching as 'animal rights' activists thrash cattle traders in police's presence
Mohammad Rizwan, one of the men who sustained injuries, said that fearing he may get lynched by cow vigilantes like what had happened in Alwar, he decided to play dead for a few minutes.
Three men, who were allegedly roughed up by members of an animal rights group in Kalkaji area Saturday night for transporting buffaloes in a truck, were arrested for inhumane transportation of animals. The trio was later released on bail, while those who had attacked them have been asked to join the probe, police said.
Following the incident, two FIRs were filed — one against the three men transporting the cattle and another against those who assaulted them, police said. The trio has been booked for mischief by killing or maiming cattle and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act as they were carrying more number of animals in a truck than rules permit. However, the men had legal transit papers for transporting the animals.
Mohammad Rizwan, one of the men who sustained injuries, told The Times of India, afraid that he might get lynched by cow vigilantes — like what had happened in Alwar — he decided to play dead for a few minutes. He claimed that a mob of 20-30 people had gathered around his truck and tried to pull him out.
"We were carrying legal trading receipts, but they were torn and thrown away by the mob. They (mob) also took away some of our sales proceeds," Rizwan told The Times of India.
"This was the first time that we were stopped by anyone. If we had been doing something illegal, we wouldn't have been allowed inside the city in the first place," Mohammad Ashfaq, who would usually accompany the three men, told The Times of India.
The second case of voluntarily causing hurt and wrongful restraint was registered against unidentified members of the People For Animals (PFA), according to police officers. As per the complaint filed by those transporting the cattle, the unidentified assailants were members of the PFA — an NGO founded and chaired by Union minister Maneka Gandhi. However, the animal rights body has denied any association with the incident.
According to the police, they received a PCR call last night from Gaurav Gupta, an animal rights activist and member of the PFA, claiming that the buffaloes were being transported illegally to Ghazipur. Later, a few animal rights activists arrived in three cars with PFA stickers and intercepted the truck, police sources added.
Eyewitnesses claimed that the three men were roughed up in front of the police officials. Khadija Faruqi, one of the eyewitness, told DNA, "I was coming back after a dinner gathering when I spotted some men beating up the truck drivers mercilessly. I informed the police as well but they were of no help. They were more interested in clearing the traffic than saving those three men."
Also, family members of the three men said that the police did not allow them to see them. Taiyab, Kamil's father told DNA, "My son was badly beaten up by the agitated mob. We were not allowed to see him."
Ehtesham Hashmi, the lawyer fighting their case, too alleged that the three were beaten up by over 30-40 persons in the presence of the police. He added that the sections under which the case was registered are weak sections and that the police officers who are handling the case are protecting the animal activists, according to DNA.
Sources also said that Gaurav had also roughed up some 10-12 truck drivers transporting cattle near Kotla Mubarakpur but no complaint was filed in that matter. These activists, led by Gupta, then allegedly roughed up the occupants of the truck.
The men transporting the animals had been identified as Pataudi residents Rizwan (25) and Kamil (25), and Ashu (28) from Mathura, DCP (southeast) Romil Baaniya told The Indian Express.
One of them, Ashu, said that they were taking the animals to a slaughterhouse in Ghazipur mandi when four cars intercepted them. “We had just crossed the Nehru Place traffic signal when we saw some people in cars abusing us and asking us to stop. We were scared… they intercepted our tempo about 10 metres from Kalkaji temple. The cars had PFA stickers on them. About 12-15 people came out and started abusing us, asking us to get out of our vehicle. They started beating us; they didn’t want to hear anything we had to say. They punched and kicked us for about 10 minutes," Ashu told The Indian Express.
A medical examination of the injured was carried out and the truck carrying buffaloes was seized by the police. While the police dismissed the injuries sustained by the three men as being “extremely minor,” The Quint reported that Ashu, one of the men who sustained injuries, had a bleeding cut under his left eye.
Gaurav's brother, Saurabh Gupta, who was also at the spot, said, "One of our PFA colleagues, Vandana Sharma, saw the truck carrying buffaloes and intercepted it. After which my brother, Gaurav, called the police control room to inform them about it. We reached the spot much later."
"There was already a huge crowd and some people beat up the trio," he said, denying their involvement in the assault.
"Is there any visual evidence that we assaulted anyone?" Saurabh asked. He said he has been associated with the PFA for nearly 12 years, but the NGO can't be held accountable for his actions.
"If there is any wrongdoing on my part, I will take full responsibility for that. The PFA cannot be held accountable for that," he said.
Union minister Gandhi's office, too, sought to deny any link between the incident and the PFA's activities.
"We have no PFA unit in Delhi. We have 10,000 volunteers across the country. Whoever acted did so in his individual capacity," Gandhi's office said. It also shared a letter from the PFA issued last year to Gaurav warning him against taking law and order in his hand in cases of animals being treated cruelly. The letter also says that Gupta is not authorised to "trespass" or "seize animals/goods" from any individual.
"Any acts committed by you in contravention of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act will be deemed to have been done in your personal capacity," the letter written by Gauri Maulekhi, a trustee of the PFA, said, after several similar incidents in the past.
Maulekhi told PTI: "The PFA does not issue any vehicle sticker. Also, the two brothers have a propensity and history of such acts from which we completely disassociate ourselves. We can't be moral guardians of lakhs of people who pay Rs 100 and become members of the PFA. If they have done anything illegal, they should be penalised."
Meanwhile, police have also been informed that Gaurav's membership had ended with the PFA. The NGO later in the day disabled it website wherein the brothers were mentioned as members of its Delhi unit.
With inputs from agencies
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