Nine months after Mohammed Akhlaq was killed by a mob on the suspicion that his family and he were eating beef in their home, hundreds of villagers near his house say they must meet this evening to demand that a police case be filed for cow slaughter against Mr Akhlaq’s relatives.
To prevent that call for a “mahapanchayat”, the police has said Section 144 is in effect now in Dadri, which prevents large groups from gathering as a precaution against violence.
The conclave is a must, said local BJP leader Sanjay Rana, whose son Vishal, is among those linked by the police to the murder of Mr Akhlaq.
Dadri in Uttar Pradesh is located just 50 kms from Delhi. The police and administration are already tense about a new movement called by the Jats, a caste from Haryana that is demanding that affirmative action policies apply to them just as they do to castes considered socially backward.
Areas bordering Delhi like Rohtak and Sonepat have been placed under Section 144 since the weekend to prevent a repeat of February, when Jat protestors left a trail of destruction as they set shops, buses and a train on fire. At least 30 people were killed and nearly 200 injured, with an industry association estimating that the losses to business from the nearly week-long violence added up to 5 billion dollars.
Last year, on September 28 a mob of people forced their way into Mr Akhlaq’s home, beat the 56-year-old to death, and dragged his body out onto the street. Last week, a lab report said that meat collected from the scene of the crime had been established as that of “cow or its progeny”.
The report contradicted an earlier document which stated the sample was of mutton.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has questioned the authority of the new report submitted by the police in court, and has stressed that what is important is punishing a mob that killed a man, irrespective of its motive.
Villagers in Bisada, home to about 400 Hindu and 25 Muslim families, however, say the new report proves that Mr Akhlaq’s family must be investigated for cow slaughter, which is illegal in Uttar Pradesh, though the possession of beef is not.
It was the announcement by a priest over temple loudspeakers that Mr Akhlaq had butchered a cow and that his wife was cooking beef for dinner brought a sudden end to the village’s long-held tradition of tolerance.