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Gujarat: Man Transporting Cattle Allegedly Killed by Vigilantes; Police Deny Mob Lynching Angle

Five men are accused of lynching a man named Mishrikhan Baloch, who was transporting buffaloes; but local police reportedly insist that the case isn't one of mob lynching but is instead rooted in a dispute the victim had with the accused.
Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

New Delhi: A man in Gujarat’s Banaskantha was killed allegedly by cow vigilantes on Thursday (May 23) while he was transporting buffaloes, news reports say.

The Times of India cited local police as saying that a group of five men allegedly lynched 40-year-old Mishrikhan Baloch early in the morning on Thursday as he transported buffaloes to an animal market.

Mishrikhan was accompanied by a man named Hussainkhan Baloch, who escaped from the assailants and is the complainant in the case, the Times‘s report said.

It added that police invoked laws relating to murder, wrongful restraint and rioting with deadly weapons against the accused.

One of the accused in the case is a man named Akherajsinh Parbatsinh Vaghela, who was also an accused in an incident of cow vigilante-related violence from July last year, the Indian Express cited officials as saying.

They also said the Gujarat high court had quashed Vaghela’s detention in the earlier case.

The Express reported that police have apprehended two of the five accused and are searching for the other three.

On Thursday’s incident, local police have denied that Baloch’s alleged killing was an incident of mob lynching – they said that it was instead rooted in an old dispute between the victims and the accused, the Times reported.

In a 2018 judgement, the Supreme court said it was the state’s responsibility to ensure that vigilantism – including cow slaughter-related vigilantism – does not take place, and directed state governments to comply with preventive and remedial measures in cases of mob violence.

Some allege that police in certain states record mob lynching cases as brawls or accidents in order to avoid their responsibilities under the top court’s 2018 judgement.

Others have raised concerns over Muslim and Dalit people bearing the brunt of violence by cow vigilantes, many of whom claim to be affiliated to militant Hindu groups with ties to the BJP.

Indian law does not specifically prescribe punishment for mob lynching but the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita – which was enacted last year and will come into force in July – prescribes a punishment of life imprisonment or death for when “a group of five or more persons acting in concert commits murder” on grounds of “race, caste or community, sex, place of birth, language, personal belief or any other similar ground”.

According to the Indian Express, police in Thursday’s Banaskantha case denied that there was a communal angle to Baloch’s killing.

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