Ranchi: Five men, including one of the two kingpins Mithilesh Prasad Sahu, associated with a local cow protection vigilante group were arrested on Saturday for thrashing and hanging to death two Muslim cattle traders in Latehar’s Balumath police station area in Jharkhand. Police are investigating if the cow protection vigilantes played any role in the murder.
Speaking to TOI, Latehar SP Anoop Birthary said, “It is true that one of the five arrested men Mithilesh Prasad Sahu is associated with a local cow protection vigilante group, but no direct involvement of any cow protection vigilante group has surfaced so far.”
The police are yet to question members of cow protection group active in Lateahr. “We will question them if further probe indicates any role they played in the murder,” he said.
Birthary however said some people are trying to spread rumours to disturb the climate of peace.
The arrested men are Mithilesh Prasad Sahu alias Banti, Pramod Kumar Sahu, Manoj Kumar Sahu, Awdesh Sahu and Manoj Sahu. Four of them are from Jhabar, the victims’ village, and one of them is from a neighbouring village. An Intelligence Bureau officer said Latehar’s Gau Raksha Samiti is run by a Sahu leader. Raids are going on to arrest three more who were involved in the murder.
The police claimed that the motivation behind the murder was cattle and cash loot which looks ironic to Umesh Singh, Latehar district president of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (P), a regional political party. Cattle traders usually carry huge cash after selling the cattle and not when they are on the way to sell them. The two victims were not rich traders either. They were herding cattle on foot and not in any vehicle like rich traders.
“They had a few thousand rupees only when they were going to sell the cattle,” Birthary said.
“The accused said they wanted to snatch the cattle and sell them in the market. Eight buffaloes were expected to fetch a few lakh rupees,” SP Birthary said. However four buffaloes were recovered from forests and only two from the possession of the accused.
The bodies of Muhammad Majloom, 35, and Azad Khan alias Ibrahim, 15, were strung up with their hands tied behind their backs and their mouths stuffed with cloth. “Petty criminals with the intention to loot cash and cattle usually do not bother to kill like this,” a retired police officer said.
Like the retired police officer the investigation has not satisfied many. Umesh Singh, district president of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (P), said the police have given an altogether different turn to the matter.
“The investigation is shallow and aimed at protecting the Hindu radicals who often threaten people of minority community because they are engaged in cattle trade,” Singh told TOI. Latehar MLA Prakash Ram said in past also attacks on cattle traders by Hindu radicals were reported in Latehar.
Meanwhile, authorities imposed Section 144 (prohibitory orders) on Saturday in Balumath to maintain peace. The situation had turned violent on Friday when protesters pelted stones on authorities injuring SDO besides half a dozen cops. The police resorted to firing to control the mob.
“The prohibitory orders were imposed to develop a climate of peace in the area. Meetings of peace committees were also organized to build brotherhood,” said ADG law and order SN Pradhan said.
In the prohibitory orders SDO said the situation continues to be grim necessitating the prohibitory orders.