On the evening of 7 June, the Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO)—the student wing of the Islamic organisation the Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind—hosted an iftar get-together at the SIO headquarters in Jamia Nagar, in Delhi. Present at the gathering were the families of: Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer from Haryana’s Nuh district, who, in April, was killed in Alwar, Rajasthan, by a mob of cow-protection vigilantes while he was transporting cattle to his farm; Mohammed Akhlaq, a resident of Bisada village in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, who was murdered in September 2015 by a mob that suspected that he had been storing and consuming beef; and Najeeb Ahmed, a first-year Masters of Science student of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, who went missing in October 2016 after an alleged altercation with members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad— the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s student affiliate. Azmat Khan and Mohammed Rafiq, two dairy farmers from Nuh who were attacked along with Pehlu Khan and his sons, were present at the event as well.
Thouseef Madikeri, an SIO member who helped organise the event, told me that the gathering had been called reflect on the crimes committed against members of the Muslim community in the past few years. “The common thread here is quite clear. They have all been wronged and none of them have received any justice yet,” Madikeri said. Several tables were arranged for attendees to come together and break their fast under a shamiana erected outside the SIO office building. Before they began eating, the members of the families narrated the incidents that had become the reason for their presence at the event.
Azmat Khan, Pehlu Khan’s neighbour and a dairy farmer, recounted the attack they faced. He said that the mob that stopped their vehicle attacked them after “analysing our facial features.” “Only the driver Arjun was allowed to go,” he added. “When we were stopped, he [the driver] said he was a Hindu.” The mob then began to thrash him, Pehlu and their other associates, Azmat said. “They had the intention to kill.” He added that the group attempted to show paperwork to the attackers, to prove that they were dairy farmers simply going about their work, but that the mob refused to look at the documents. “After all this, the police have not registered a case against the attackers, but they have against us,” Azmat said. “If our trade has become a threat to our lives, then the government should assist us in moving to something else.”
“When they looked at my father and his beard, they made up their mind to kill him,” Irshad Khan, Pehlu’s son, said. Since Pehlu’s death, he added, “Not even a single member of either the Haryana or Rajasthan government has come to meet and enquire about either me or my family.” Irshad said that after the attack, in addition to his family, other Muslim dairy farmers in Nuh had begun to fear for their lives and livelihood. He added that the government should adequately compensate the dairy farmers. “My family has been in this line of work a long time, but we should not have to die for it,” he said. “If the cow and now even the buffalo cannot be transported, then they should be bought from us and kept in the gaushala.”
Following Irshad, Mohammed Akhlaq’s brother Jaan Mohammed addressed the gathering. “Aaj-kal iss desh mein, sher agar samne aaye toh hum jaise logon ki musibat kam reh jati hai,” he said. “Lekin agar mere peeche bhi kisi ko gaay dikh gayi, toh bahut badi musibat mein phas sakta hoon,” (In our country today, people like us are will be safer if we encounter a lion. But if there is a cow even behind me, I can get into trouble.) “All of you know about the case of my brother because it received worldwide coverage,” Jaan said. He stressed that the murder of his brother was a premeditated attack. “Because of a rumour about him slaughtering a cow, there was a loudspeaker announcement at the temple in the village,” he said, before adding, “How could something like this take place in the spur of the moment?” “Not even a chicken had been executed” at Akhlaq’s house, Jaan said.