Vigilantism, Violence & Politics: Nasir-Junaid Case Shows a Thriving Hate Nexus

The plight of the families is a grim reminder that fair, equal treatment to all citizens remains a mirage in India.

5 min read
Hindi Female

In the grim history of cow vigilantism over the past decade, the savage abduction, assault, and murder of Nasir and Junaid of Bharatpur in February this year stand out as a particularly horrifying chapter.

But six long months after their brutal killing and burning, only three of the 30 accused have been arrested, casting a shadow over the integrity of Haryana and Rajasthan police in tackling the menace of self-appointed Gau Rakshaks.

Given the crass political calculations, the trauma of victim families is not tough to imagine. Left to deal with the cruel killings, the orphaned children, bereaved parents, and their relatives are isolated and full of fear. And of course, the loss of livelihood and apathy of the state is a continuing tragedy in itself.


The Menacing Cow Vigilantism Violence

Since public memory fades quickly these days, it is necessary to recall the gruesome manner in which cow vigilantes carried out this heinous act. On 16 February, Haryana police discovered a charred Bolero SUV containing the remains of two human bodies in a remote part of Bhiwani district. The Muslim duo of Nasir and Junaid from Ghatmika village in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district were abducted by cow vigilantes a day before despite the absence of any cows with them.

After brutally thrashing them, the assailants entered Haryana and allegedly attempted to hand over the grievously injured victims to the Firozpur Jhirka policemen. But as the cops refused to accept the injured duo, the vigilantes kept moving within Haryana for over 16 hours before burning the victims and their vehicle.

From the outset, the conduct of the Haryana police has been dubious especially since the cops at Nuh police station did nothing to save the helpless victims nor reported the matter to the higher-ups.

Their shocking insensitivity and subsequent actions have done little to dispel the doubts about the role of the police.

Later, when the Rajasthan Police visited the village of the accused Srikant, his family alleged that the policemen assaulted the pregnant wife of the accused who then suffered a stillbirth. Although the Rajasthan police denied the charges, the Haryana police slapped a case against them, indicating a lack of trust and an attempt to undermine the Rajasthan Police investigation.


Hindutva Groups’ Involvement & Complicity of Haryana Police

Despite the horrendous nature of the crime, Hindutva groups like Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal criticised the Rajasthan Police for employing excessive force during the arrests. One of the key accused Rinku Saini was quickly arrested and the Hindutva groups organised special Panchayats to pile pressure on Rajasthan cops.

At a Mahapanchayat in Bhiwani, a rabid Hindutva leader threatened Rajasthan cops by stating "They will not go back on their feet if they dare to arrest Monu Manesar.”

In the face of resistance from Hindutva groups and a lack of cooperation from the Haryana police, progress in this horrific case has been tardy.

Only three of the 30 accused have been arrested so far. While Rinku Saini was apprehended on 17 February, Rajasthan police arrested Monu Rana and Gogi on 14 April. Despite filing a charge sheet against the three on 16 May, the remaining accused, including the notorious Monu Manesar, continue to abscond.

Investigations by the Rajasthan Police reveal close ties between the Haryana police and cow vigilantes. It is disclosed that many of the accused were police informants and the car used for the Nasir-Junaid abduction was earlier a Haryana government vehicle.

This reflects the close collaboration (if not collusion) between the vigilantes and Haryana authorities.

The car used in the abduction has been seen in several social media videos posted by the vigilantes which show them thrashing people.


‘A Culture of Impunity’

The tangled links between Gau Rakshaks and the Haryana police stem from little-known but mendacious legislation. After enacting the draconian Cow Protection Act in 2015, the Haryana government issued a notification in 2021 to establish a Special Cow Protection Task Force in each district. This 11-member district task force was allowed to nominate five non-official members of whom two are chosen from the local Gau Rakshak groups.

In effect, these Gau Rakshak members, mostly from Hindutva outfits, have gained official sanction to intervene in incidents which they regard as crimes of cow smuggling or cow slaughter.

For all practical purposes, the Special Cow Protection Task Force teams are an exercise in 'parallel policing’, promoting a culture of impunity. Resultantly, cow vigilantes like Monu Manesar thrive in Haryana as what was once a crime is now depicted on Social Media as an act of service to society!   

Significantly, this intricate nexus between state and non-state actors hinders the proactive pursuit of justice by the Haryana police in the Junaid-Nasir case and was also the reason for a recent spat between the Chief Ministers of Haryana and Rajasthan.


Political Pushbacks

Amid communal tensions in Nuh in early August, Haryana CM ML Khattar had stated Rajasthan Police was free to act against the accused Bajrang Dal member Monu Manesar. In response, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot not only criticised the lack of cooperation from the Haryana police but asserted that Khattar's statements on Manesar were only to ‘divert’ public attention from communal violence.

The Khattar-Gehlot skirmish underlines the political dimension of this calamitous case. Even as BJP accuses the Gehlot government of inept law and order situation in Rajasthan in the election year, this is one case in which the Saffron party is keeping its lips scrupulously sealed.

The strategic silence is dictated by the fear of possible exposure of inconvenient truths about the Haryana Police. Tragically, Congress too seems hesitant to act vigorously due to concerns about losing Hindu votes. Human Rights activists point out that even the compensation given by the Gehlot dispensation to the families of Nasir-Junaid is far less than what was given to the family of Kanhaiya Lal, beheaded by Muslim terrorists in Udaipur last year.

While Kanhaiya’s family received Rs 50 lakhs and government jobs for both sons, the Nasir-Junaid families have been given just Rs 5 lakhs each, hardly an approach that suits Rahul Gandhi’s credo of 'Mohabbat ki Dukaan’.    

The plight of Nasir-Junaid families is a grim reminder that fair and equal treatment to all citizens remains a mirage in India in the face of cow vigilantism.

As their actions frequently get legitimised by politicians, vigilantes often get away scot-free as happened in the first cow lynching case in Rajasthan where all accused in the Pehlu Khan case were acquitted due to a shoddy police probe. It would be a grave travesty if a similar fate befalls the Nasir-Junaid case.

The pursuit of justice, marred by political calculations and a selective approach by law enforcement agencies, places a serious question mark on the commitment of our lawmakers to the principles of freedom, equality, and justice enshrined in the Indian constitution.

(The author is a veteran journalist and expert on Rajasthan politics. Besides serving as a Resident Editor at NDTV, he has been a Professor of Journalism at the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur. He tweets at @rajanmahan. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Topics:  Hate Crimes   Rajasthan   Gau Rakshaks 

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