A week after Junaid and Nasir’s murder, locals from their village Ghatmeeka in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur, including their family members, have alleged “pressure” from the Rajasthan Congress government to “go silent”.
“Since day one, the Rajasthan government has been trying to silence us, the notice against our protests confirms our fears that this government isn’t interested in punishing the culprits, but only getting us to keep quiet,” Mohammed Jabir, a cousin of Junaid and Nasir told The Quint.
The notice he is referring to is one served on Thursday, 23 February, under section 107/116 CrPC to Jabir and other villagers who have been protesting since the day of the murder, demanding justice for Junaid and Nasir. The protesters, in the show cause notice, have been ordered to be present at the court of the sub-divisional magistrate of Pahari on 27 February and argue for why they should not be restrained for six months to “maintain peace.”
The notice came a day after the Rajasthan police had released a poster of suspects in the murder case. There were eight names and faces on this poster, but notably, Bajrang Dal leader Monu Manesar was conspicuous by his absence.
This move by the Rajasthan police came on the heels of a series of ‘mahapanchayats’ led by members of Bajrang Dal and VHP in support of Monu Manesar, and even threatening violence If the Rajasthan police were to arrest him. While Monu was one of the 5 in the FIR registered in the case, his name is missing from the list of suspects released. However, speaking to The Quint, Gaurav Srivastava, IG Bharatpur, said that Monu “hasn’t been ruled out.”
“An FIR is only the starting point, based on the complainant’s statement. The list of suspects we have released is based on our questioning of Rinku Saini (one arrested) and all the evidence we have gathered. But this doesn’t mean that Monu or any other individual has been ruled out yet,” Srivastava said.
But Monu’s absence from the list of suspects was enough to further intensify the ongoing protests in Ghatmeeka. Since their killing, villagers have been demanding that Monu be arrested.
This comes at a time when the Rajasthan Congress government finds itself already being criticised for dragging its feet and not taking a strong enough position rallying in support of the victims.
Compensation and Local Leadership
On Friday, 17 February, a day after the news of Junaid and Nasir’s killing was reported, Zahida Khan, Rajasthan’s education minister and MLA from Bharatpur’s Kaman constituency reached Ghatmeeka and met the families of the deceased. After the meeting, in a panchayat, the MLA announced a compensation of Rs 20.5 lakh each for both families. Of this, Rs 15 lakh was from the government, Rs 5 lakh from her and Rs 50 thousand from the Pradhan.
But this soon brought out comparisons with the recent killing of Kanhaiya Lal in Udaipur by two Muslim extremists, after which CM Ashok Gehlot announced a compensation of Rs 50 lakh for the family.
Moreover, Zahida Khan had announced a job for a member of both families, but later clarified she wasn’t talking of a government job but “only a contractual job.”
“The compensation is just a way of shutting us up and expecting us to not demand any action. And why should the family members just be given a contractual job and not a government one? This government isn’t interested in actually helping the family in any way, they are failing us,” said Wasim Akram, a villager and protestor.
Earlier, commenting on the case, Zahida Khan, had said “This is not a Rajasthan issue, but a national-level problem,” in an interview to ANI. Protestors also cast aspersions on her intent, citing that her brother, Chaudhary Zakir Hussain has been a 3-time BJP MLA and is presently the BJP Minority Morcha National Vice President. “This brother-sister duo is just interested in safeguarding each other’s interests, nothing more. Zahida Khan’s associates have tried to pressure me and my family into stopping our protests,” said Jabir.
The Quint reached out to Zahida Khan for a response but there was none. The report will be updated with a response when there is one.
Criticism of Rahul Gandhi
AIMIM leader and MP Asaduddin Owaisi has been taking jibes at CM Gehlot, even tweeting an empty picture with the caption- “BREAKING: Exclusive photo of @ashokgehlot51 meeting Junaid’s & Nasir’s family.”
However, soon after Owaisi’s tweet, Gehlot put out a picture with the relatives of the victims, saying he met them a few days ago
Gehlot has also tweeted in the past condemning the incident. However, criticism has been levelled against Rahul Gandhi and his silence on the matter. Not only has he not visited the victims’ families, he hasn’t spoken on this issue at all, nor tweeted about it.
Gandhi attended the wedding of Congress leader Jitender Singh’s daughter in Alwar on 22 February—just days after Junaid and Nasir’s murder -- inviting further criticism from some locals for not meeting the family members in nearby Bharatpur.
Election Year in Rajasthan
The Congress party has chosen to make this an issue of law and order in the state of Haryana—where it is in opposition, and where the burnt bodies were found.
Former Haryana CM and Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda has directed its criticism towards Haryana government saying that “law and order is completely dead in Haryana.”
Congress Haryana MLAs such as Aftab Ahmed and Mamman Khan too have levelled similar charges against the state BJP government in the Haryana assembly.
However, top party leadership is refraining from explicitly naming ‘Bajrang Dal’ in its statements. This may have to do with the fact that Rajasthan is due for elections later this year.
“The Congress is in a tight spot with this issue. They don’t want to go all out and criticise the Bajrang Dal for fear of alienating Hindu voters. But with their non-committal attitude on this matter, they might also lose out on Mewati Muslim votes, who have traditionally backed the party,” said Prakash Bhandari, Rajasthan-based political analyst.
While introducing an anti-lynching law in the Rajasthan assembly in 2019, then Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal had told the House that “after 2014, 86 percent cases of mob lynching reported in the country happened in Rajasthan.”