Bangalore: Three policemen allegedly allowed cow vigilantes to lynch a cattle trader in Karnataka and then dumped the body on a roadside to cover the murder up. The trio have been arrested along with seven Bajrang Dal activists.
Sub-inspector D.N. Kumar and constables Mohan Kotwal and Gopal of Udupi police have been charged with destroying evidence and dereliction of duty (for dumping the body) while the Bajrang men have been booked for murder and conspiracy.
Police sources were unsure whether the three cops might yet be slapped with murder and conspiracy charges, but said they believed the trio had waylaid the victim with the vigilantes and watched the beating.
The body of Mangalore resident Hussainabba, 62, had been found beside a highway near Udupi town in coastal Karnataka on May 30. His family lodged a complaint saying cow vigilantes had lynched him in the presence of policemen, and naming sub-inspector Kumar.
Police sources said Hussainabba had bought 11 heads of cattle in Udupi and was returning home to Mangalore, 70km away, around 4am on May 30 when he was waylaid by the Bajrang activists and the three policemen.
While Hussainabba's two younger companions fled, the aged cattle trader got beaten up.
Police sources said the three cops dragged Hussainabba to their vehicle and drove towards the local police station after asking one of the Bajrang men to bring the cattle van to the station.
Hussainabba didn't make the 7km drive, apparently suffering a cardiac arrest and dying in the back seat of the police vehicle.
The cops then allegedly took Hussainabba's body back to the spot where he had been attacked and dumped it on the wayside - an act the police sources claimed they had confessed to.
When a local man spotted the body and called the police station in the morning, the police took it to a mortuary and filed a case of unnatural death.
Udupi superintendent of police Laxman Nimbargi ordered an investigation, suspended the sub-inspector and later had him and the two constables arrested.
Calls to Nimbargi's office to ask why the trio had not been charged with conspiracy and murder met with the response that he was busy with meetings.
"We believe the three policemen were hand in glove with the Bajrang Dal activists," Hussainabba's cousin Sheikh Kunji told The Telegraph. He said the family appreciated the way the district police chief had swiftly arrested his own men.
The arrested Bajrang activists are Suresh Mendon, 42, Prasad Kondady, 30, Umesh Shetty, 28, Ratan, 22, Chetan Acharya, 22, Shailesh Shetty, 20, and Ganesh, 24.
The coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Uttara Kannada and Udupi are notorious for cow vigilantism. Even a BJP worker, Praveen Poojary, was beaten to death --- allegedly by 20 activists from the Hindu Jagarana Vedike --- for transporting a cow in Udupi in August 2016.
Hussainabba's family said cow vigilantes had attacked him once earlier too, in 2016.