Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam
(Trigger Warning: Descriptions of violence. Discretion is advised.)
It has been over four days since Idrees Pasha was allegedly beaten to death while he and two others were transporting cattle on Friday night, 31 March.
The cow vigilantes, led by Puneeth Kerehalli, allegedly stopped the truck opposite Sathanur police station, claimed that the traders were smuggling cattle for slaughter, hurled anti-Muslim verbal abuse, and chased and assaulted the three traders.
On 4 April, The Quint visited Mandya district in Karnataka to speak to Pasha's family.
Dismissing the smuggling allegation, the family showed the receipts of purchase. As per the receipts, the cattle were bought from Tendekere Market in Mandya to sell in a market in Tamil Nadu for dairy farming.
These receipts were shown to the cow vigilantes late Friday night as well but that did not stop them, the family said.
While Syed Zaheer, driver of the vehicle, and Irfan, co-passenger, were allegedly chased and caught near the police station by the accused, Pasha was caught around 70 metres from police station.
‘They Gave Him Electric Shocks': Pasha’s Kin
Speaking to The Quint, Shamsuddin, a 55-year-old tractor mechanic and Pasha’s uncle, said, “I, along with the rest of the family, saw his body. Electric shocks were given on his arms, on his neck. They hit his jaw with a bat, his head was also damaged. We got his body after post mortem for burial. When we were trying to clean the body with water, his skin was coming off.”
The family showed The Quint photos of the injuries on the body.
Pasha's kin, friends, and neighbours, were all present outside the house. And they all discussed the same thing - how to appeal for justice?
A neighbour, Aftab, who described himself as "neither a relative nor a friend of Idrees," told The Quint:
“This incident has affected everyone. He was targeted as a Muslim and for what? If anyone is committing crime or smuggling cattle, for that there is law and India’s Constitution. So many current shocks were given that Pasha’s whole body had burn marks. In what enmity was he beaten so brutally? There is no hatred between Hindus and Muslims in Karnataka. There are just a few people supporting Hindutva."
Confirming if Rs two lakh were demanded from the traders in exchange for their lives, Pasha’s younger brother Yunus, 35, said, “Yes, they demanded that money from Zaheer. But when they said they are drivers, they only carry around Rs three to five thousand with them, they started beating them. They were not even given the option to call.”
Puneeth Kerehalli Alleges Conspiracy, Now Arrested
Speaking to The Quint, Superintendent of Police (SP) Ramanagara Karthik Reddy, said on Wednesday afternoon, 5 April, "We arrested main accused Puneeth Kerehalli and four others from Rajasthan’s Banswara district. Our teams nabbed him after doing a technical analysis to track his location."
He added, "Police teams from both Gujarat and Rajasthan helped us. All five accused were presented in front of the local magistrate and we have received orders for their transit remand.”
On 3 April, a video was posted on a Facebook page (Karnataka Suddi) showing Kerehalli sitting in a car and defending himself.
The cow vigilante had claimed that it was not him who killed Idrees Pasha but he was being framed by Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) leaders to sway Muslim voters. In the video, he had also claimed that his phone was switched off as he was visiting multiple temples.
“There’s been an FIR registered against me. I will willingly come before the police and cooperate with the investigation because I am not afraid of anything. I will deal with questions straightforwardly. I will always protect cows and even in the future I will do it."Puneeth Kerehalli in a video released on 3 April.
The vigilante regularly live-streams such 'cow rescue' missions. Addressing that, he said, “I live-streamed the incident on Facebook and many have watched it. I stayed with the police until the cows were released on Saturday morning. Would I have gone to the police if I had killed someone? The post-mortem report will give the answer."
SP Ramanagara Karthik Reddy had earlier told The Quint on 3 April, that the police are waiting for the post-mortem report to ascertain the cause of death.
While previous videos on his now hidden Facebook profile showed Kerehalli using an electric taser to assault traders, the vigilante has claimed that there is a conspiracy against him.
"Just for your vote bank politics, you (Congress and JD(S)) have killed a Muslim man and had a rally in Mandya. This is all a farce. Carry on this drama, let's see. The holy cow mother won't protect any of you."
While Kerehalli's video was proving to be a source of anger for the Muslim community and an embarrassment for the Karnataka Police, he has finally been arrested.
Meanwhile, Congress Karnataka president DK Shivakumar, who is also an MLA from Kanakapura constituency, where the alleged murder took place, slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and said in a tweet, "The Sathanur incident is an eye-opener that law and order in Karnataka is touching new lows under the BJP. Religion-based politics, killing in the name of moral policing are just a tip of the iceberg if we think about how worse it can get if this government is allowed to continue."
While the police have arrested all five accused, Pasha's family worries for his children's future. His brother Yunus said, "We appeal to the government to punish him (Puneeth Kerehalli) so that this does not happen again."