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A Jharkhand court in Ramgarh district on Wednesday awarded life terms to 11 cow vigilantes, including a BJP leader, for allegedly lynching a Muslim trader after accusing him of transporting beef in 2017.
Special court judge Om Prakash had held all the 11 accused guilty under IPC Section 302 (murder) on March 16. The accused were also slapped with a fine of Rs 2,000 each.
The court of additional district judge Om Prakash had held all the accused guilty under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code, among other offences, on March 16. They were accused of murdering Alimuddin Ansari alias Asgar Ali, a 55-year-old trader.
The 11 convicts were identified as Santosh Singh, Deepak Mishra, Vicky Saw, Sikandar Ram, Uttam Ram, Vikram Prasad, Raju Kumar, Rohit Thakur, Chottu Verma, Kapil Thakur and local BJP leader Nityanand Mahto. They were also slapped with a fine of Rs 2,000 each.
Additional public prosecutor Sushil Kumar Shukla said this was the first case of cow vigilantism in the country where the accused were convicted and severely punished. “However, the court is yet to decide on the defence counsel’s contention that the twelfth convict is a juvenile. We have opposed it on the grounds that he is over 16 years of age,” he added.
Defence lawyer DN Singh said he will file an appeal petition against the conviction in the Jharkhand high court. The court has forwarded its order to the district legal services authority, so it can initiate steps to compensate the victim’s family.
The deceased’s wife, Mariam Khatun, welcomed the judgment. “The death of my husband came as an irreparable loss. The accused deserved nothing less,” she said.
A mob of over 100 people – including Bajrang Dal activists –lynched Ansari at Bazartand in Ramgarh on June 29 last year. They then proceeded to set his car afire.
The BJP-ruled state had witnessed a series of cattle-related lynchings between May and June last year. The issue even rocked Parliament, with several opposition leaders questioning the administration’s resolve to tame cow vigilantes. In the face of widespread criticism, the Raghubar Das government warned the officers-in-charge of all police stations across Jharkhand that they would be held responsible for any such cases reported in their jurisdictions.
The state government also requested the Jharkhand high court to constitute a special fast track court to try the Ramgarh lynching incident. Police filed the charge sheet in September, and the trial was completed in less than six months.
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