On the morning of Thursday, 16 February, Haseen, a farmer in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur, got a phone call inquiring about his car, a white Bolero. The caller asked him when he last saw it, and if he had happened to drive it to Loharu city, in Haryana’s Bhiwani. But Haseen was sitting at his home, over 150 kilometers away from Loharu. Distressed, Haseen asked the caller, who happened to be an official of Loharu police, to cut to the chase and tell him what had happened.
“He told me that my car has been found in Loharu, completely charred, along with two dead bodies inside it,” Haseen told The Quint. “My heart immediately skipped a beat. It was worse than what we had suspected.”
For the last 24 hours, Haseen had received multiple phone calls from locals of the nearby village Ghatmeeka, asking him if he knew of Junaid and Nasir’s whereabouts.
“So I knew they were missing, and everyone was worried something bad may have happened. But we never thought it could be this bad,” he said.
Haseen had left his white Bolero with Nasir earlier on the evening of Tuesday, 14 February when he had gone to visit his aunt and uncle in Ghatmeeka village. “Nasir was a distant relative and I knew him well, he had some work so I was comfortable leaving the car with him,” Haseen said.
After the call from the police, Haseen informed Nasir’s family members, and they rushed to Loharu in Haryana together to identify the car and find Junaid and Nasir. “We identified the car, but the bodies were completely burnt. It was practically just the skeletons left,” he added.
The Search Begins
Junaid, 32 and Nasir, 25 were uncle and nephew to each other, but had a relationship akin to that of brothers, say their families.
Early morning, at around 5 am, on Wednesday, 15 February, the two of them left their homes in Ghatmeeka village in the white Bolero, that they had borrowed from Haseen an evening prior. “They were going to meet Junaid’s in-laws,” Nasir’s aunt told The Quint.
A few hours later, Junaid’s wife, Sajida, decided to ring him up. “But his phone kept coming switched off,” she told The Quint. “His phone is usually never off, so I got very worried.” Soon, Nasir’s wife too tried calling him and his phone was switched off too.
Sajida informed relatives and neighbours about this, some of whom decided to step out of the village and try and search for Junaid and Nasir. One of them was Ismail, a 56-year-old relative of the two, who was leading the search.
At around 9 am, the villagers had reached the nearby Piraku village, where they stopped at a stall to have some tea. “A man was also having tea there, who told us that a few hours ago he spotted two men being abducted, beaten and assaulted, and then were taken away in the Bolero car,” Ismail told The Quint. “The people on the spot also identified and named the Bajrang Dal men,” Ismail says.
Ismail also claims to have found glass shards – presumably from the car – around the area.
With every passing minute, panic increased manifold.
Call To Sarpanch
Ismail and the other members of the search party immediately began calling all the relatives, extended family members, as well as locals from nearby villagers requesting them to source any information on the two.
One of the people they called was Deenu, the former Sarpanch of a nearby village called Ghata Shamshabad. “I immediately began making calls to various police stations,” Deenu told The Quint.
A while later, Deenu says he received a call back from one of the stations—that of Ferozepur Jhirka that is only a few kilometers away but falls in Haryana state. “The police officer told me that early morning, a group of Bajrang Dal men brought 2 people with them. One person’s spine had been injured, the other’s hand had been broken, they said. The Bajrang Dal men wanted the police to arrest the men but the police officer said they were too injured for the police to do anything and so asked to first take them to a hospital,” Deenu told The Quint. “We went to all the local hospitals in the area then, but found that Junaid and Nasir were nowhere.”
The Quint visited the Ferozepur Jhirka police station that Deenu mentioned, but all police officials there refused to speak to the media.
Allegations Against Bajrang Dal, And One Arrest
After getting these leads, Ismail rushed to the Gopalgarh police station and registered an FIR detailing what had transpired that day, and also named five people from the Bajrang Dal. “On inquiring about the accused, the people at the spot said they were from the Bajrang Dal namely Anil, resident of Multhan; Shrikant, resident of Maroda; Rinku Saini, resident of Ferozepur Jhirka; Lokesh Singla, resident of Hodal; and Monu resident of Manesar.”
In a press note released by Rajasthan police late Friday evening, one of the accused, Rinku Saini has been arrested. Rinku Saini is a taxi driver in Ferozepur Jhirka and chases people who indulge in cow smuggling, the press note further said, adding that he will now be questioned about the other people involved in this incident.
The note also said that the bodies have been sent for post-mortem examination, and a DNA sample from the bones have been sent for an analysis. The bodies were sent to the families in Ghatmeeka village, late Thursday night.
The FIR against the accused has been registered under IPCs 143 (punishment for unlawful assembly), 365 (kidnapping or abduction of any person with intent to cause that person to be secretly and wrongfully confined), 367 (kidnapping or abduction in order to subject a person to grievous hurt) and 368 (wrongfully concealing or keeping in confinement, kidnapping or abduction of a person). A murder charge hasn’t been included in the FIR yet.
Monu Manesar is a well known member of the Bajrang Dal, often found posting videos on his facebook account where he boasts of chasing down alleged ‘cow smugglers’. He has also posted multiple photographs with Haryana police officers on his social media.
Speaking to The Quint earlier on Thursday, he denied any involvement in the case. “I did not know them (Junaid and Nasir), I wasn’t there or anywhere close,” he said.
Monu Manesar’s name featured most recently in a police complaint on 28 January in Haryana’s Nuh, after a video of a resident Waris Khan being shoved into a car went viral. Waris died soon hours after, and the family alleged that he was beaten to death by Monu and other members of the Bajrang Dal. However, the police had claimed that Waris died due to injuries sustained in an accident.
Earlier, at a ‘Hindu Mahapanchayat’ event in Haryana’s Pataudi on 4 July 2021, Monu Manesar reportedly declared, “Jo love jihad karega, jo humari behan betiyon ko chherega, unko maarne ka kaam sirf aur sirf hum, humari team aur humari yuvasaathi karenge (Those who will indulge in ‘Love Jihad’, those who will tease our girls, we — our team and our young associates — will beat them up.)
Gaurav Srivastava, IG Bharatpur had earlier said that “Nasir doesn’t have any criminal record. Junaid has five previous cases of cow smuggling registered against him.” However, family members of Junaid denied this allegation. “Junaid was a labourer, he was the only earning member of the family. He had nothing to do with smuggling cows,” his wife Sanjida said.