Encounters with alleged “cow smugglers” are hardly unusual at Lalawandi, a nondescript village off the Gurugram highway in Alwar. The bucolic village has shot into the headlines over the lynching of Rakbar Khan, a dairy farmer from Nuh in Haryana, last week.

Sitting outside the village grocery shop, Prem, a middle-aged man, said the village, dominated by Hindus, was committed to the cause of cow protection.

“Though a few in the village are associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, all come out in their support in an hour of need,” the elderly shopkeeper said.

All in it together

“The cow smugglers are mostly headed to Nuh in Haryana and prefer to pass through this village. It is the only Hindu-dominated village on their route with most of the neighbouring villages such as Alawara, Hasanpur and Chauma having a significant Muslim population. We stop every vehicle transporting cows and make inquiries,” said Prahlad, a local youth, adding that the police were informed in case of suspicion.

The young man denied that the suspects were assaulted, saying that they were only slapped.

Rakesh, another villager, explained that identifying the cow smugglers was easy as they fumbled when questioned. “Earlier, they transported cows in mini-lorries. But the drivers now refuse for fear of being troubled by the police. Now they usually walk the cows at night,” he said.

Though most of the people in the village were tight-lipped about Friday’s lynching incident, local VHP activist Naval Kishor Sharma’s aunt Maya said Sharma, along with some policemen, had come to her on Friday night on his way to the police station with Rakbar. “I saw the policemen kicking and abusing that Muslim man [Rakbar]. He seemed fine,” she said.

Dullichand, father of Naresh, one of the accused, said his son was falsely implicated and he was at home when the incident took place. “Naresh works as a mechanic in a tractor repair shop in Ramgarh. I was away with my wife for a wedding in Fatehabad. Naresh was arrested on his way to work the next day,” Mr. Dullichand said.

Dedicated activists

Pushpender, a Delhi Police constable and brother of another accused, Dharmender Yadav, said his brother had helped the police transport the cows to a
and was framed. “Had he been involved, he would have run away,” Mr. Pushpender said.

Residents of Lalawandi said Paramjit and Dharmender were active cow vigilantes, but Naresh and Vijay were not.

Nitesh Kumar, who runs a private school in the village, said the VHP and the Shiv Sena had considerable influence in Ramgarh Assembly constituency that had a sizeable number of Muslim voters.

Mr. Kumar blamed inaction by the police and the local administration for the incidents of violence.

“Despite a police post at Alawara and a police station in Naugaon, cow smuggling continues unabated. The villagers have reported to the local administration about people transporting cattle through fields and damaging their crops, but no action has been initiated. So the villagers have now taken it upon themselves to stop this menace. Rakbar and his friend Aslam were also beaten up when their cows strayed into the fields,” he said.

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