The sons of lynching victim Pehlu Khan and two other eyewitnesses have said they were shot at while travelling to depose in the trial court in Rajasthan on Saturday, the opening day of the hearing.
Pehlu’s sons Irshad and Arif were travelling from their home in Nuh, Haryana, to the court in Behror along with fellow witnesses Azmat and Rafiq and their lawyer Asad Hayat when they were attacked on National Highway 8 in Rajasthan’s Alwar district, they said.
“Our car was overtaken by a black Scorpio, whose occupants waved at us, asking us to stop,” Asad said over the phone.
“When we didn’t, a man from the rear seat fired at us from a revolver and they sped off. Luckily, the bullet missed us and the car.”
He said the attack happened around 9am, about 8km from Behror.
“We were too scared to go to court after that. We took a U-turn and drove to Alwar town taking an alternative route through villages, met the superintendent of police and lodged a complaint,” said Irshad.
Pehlu, a dairy farmer, was attacked along with Azmat, Rafiq, Irshad and Arif in Alwar on April 1 last year while taking home two milch cows bought from a Jaipur fair. The group members say they had all the required documents and had shown them to the attackers. Pehlu, 55, later died of his injuries.
In September last year, Rajasthan police exonerated all the six accused whom Pehlu had named in his dying declaration. The six, whose names were removed from the FIR, belong to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and had never been arrested.
However, the trial court did not accept the police’s report and initiated the trial process so that it could later decide whether to drop charges or direct the police to investigate further. It set the witness depositions for Saturday, Asad said.
Irshad said the shooting was meant to scare the witnesses off deposing against the six accused: Hukum Chand, Jagmal Yadav, Navin Sharma, Om Prakash, Rahul and Sudheer. “The (shooter’s) car had no number plate,” he said.
He added that the family had received multiple threats to withdraw the case.
“Five months ago, when we were visiting the court, two men had threatened us on the premises saying they would kill our family outside the court if we pursued the case,” Irshad said.
“We have lost all faith in the Rajasthan police. We had asked them to give us protection during our visits but they did not reply. We want the case transferred out of Rajasthan for a free and fair trial.”
Alwar superintendent of police Rajendra Singh said a case of attempted murder had been registered against unknown people.
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties wrote to Rajasthan director-general of police O.P. Galhotra on Saturday demanding security for the witnesses.
“Police protection should be given from Haryana itself, right up to the court and back,” said Anant Bhatnagar, general secretary of the rights body.
“It is also sensible to move the trial outside Alwar to Delhi, just as some Gujarat riot cases were tried in Mumbai.”