‘We want justice,’ says family of slain vegetable seller from Rajasthan

Picture used representational purposes

Muhammad Saleem was a 55-year-old vegetable seller who was killed after a mob allegedly attacked him in Beawar, Rajasthan. The police has ruled out the mob lynching angle and maintained that it was a case of assault. 

Muhammad Raafi | TwoCircles.net

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NEW DELHI —  Nearly two weeks after a 55-year-old Muslim vegetable vendor died after a mob allegedly attacked him in Beawar, Rajasthan over ‘a wrongly parked motorbike,’ his family has been left in distress and are demanding justice. 

The slain Muhammad Saleem was a resident of Beawar, a city in the Ajmer district, and owned a wholesale vegetable shop at the main vegetable market of Mewari Gate in Beawar.

“What was his fault? We want justice and punishment for the culprits,” Muhammad Abbas, 30-year-old son of the slain told TwoCircles.net. 

Earlier on April 2, at least 40 shops and two-wheelers belonging to Muslims were attacked and burnt to ashes in Karauli Colony Rajasthan during communal clashes. It was the first day of the Hindu new year.  The clashes began when several Hindus were part of a motorcycle rally celebrating Nav Samvatsar vandalized shops and automobiles.

The vandalization took place after a youth allegedly pelted stones on the motorcycle rally while passing through a Muslim-majority neighbourhood, police said.

In Beawar, a day later, Muhammad Abbas filed a complaint at Beawar City Police Station detailing that on the morning of April 3, at 6:30 AM Saleem and his son Ibrahim went to the vegetable market and parked their bike in front of the shop.

A person named Suraj Marothia stopped his van behind and then started hitting their bike.

According to the family’s neighbour, Marothia hurled abuses at Saleem and Ibrahim and threatened them. Referring to Muslims with the derogatory term Mullah’s, Marothia told the father-son duo that they have no work in the market. “We’ll stop the entry of Mullahs in the market.”

Muhammad Altaf, brother of Saleem told TwoCircles.net that Suraj Marothia was accompanied by at least six others who attacked Saleem with iron rods pipes. They kept hitting him till one of them smashed his head with iron weights.

Although Abbas  and Ibrahim, sons of Saleem tried to intervene, they  were overpowered and sustained injuries. Saleem felt unconscious.

The attackers dragged Saleem’s body, stopped a van and directed the driver to throw his body away. But, by the time Saleem’s neighbours had reached the spot.

A neighbour of Saleem said that they snatched the body from the van and took Saleem to Amrit Kaur Hospital in Beawar City. “He was declared brought dead,” he said.

“He was murdered,” said Altaf, Saleem’s brother.

However, Police officials in Beawar City alleged that Saleem was killed during a scuffle with a vegetable vendor. “Two vendors had a fight resulting in the death of one person,” SHO of Beawar City said.

He said the police have registered a case in the matter and three persons have been arrested. “The investigation is on.”

The SHO also brushed aside the communal statements made by the accused while “lynching” Saleem. “We haven’t come across such statements,” he said.

On April 3, newsgathering agency PTI quoted Police saying that a pick-up jeep which had come to deliver vegetables to the other seller hit the motorcycle of Salim’s son, leading to a heated exchange between the two. “The argument took an ugly turn when 6-7 people from the other group attacked Salim and his two sons with sticks,” they said.

The local residents of Beawar said, it was after the Muslim community leaders reached the police station and demanded the registration of an FIR, that the police acted.

An FIR has been registered under sections 147 (Punishment for rioting), 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (Punishment for wrongful restraint), 153-A (deals with the offence of promoting disharmony, enmity or feelings of hatred between different groups on the grounds of religion, race, etc) and 302 (Punishment for murder) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) against seven accused identified as Suraj Marothia, Shankar Bhati, Dharma Bhati, Jai Bhati, Sunil Bhati, Shankar Pawar and Rakesh.

Hate crimes directed at Muslims have spiked in Rajasthan, the Congress-ruled state, lately.

Kavita Srivastava, National Secretary of the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties told Two Circles that there is a lot of impunity to kill a Muslim.

“The entire episode between Saleem and the criminals happened because he was a Muslim.”

She said that it is worrying that people think they can threaten and kill a Muslim and then get away with it.

She said that although she is glad that the state government has arrested the culprits but demanded that the government should immediately implement the Supreme Court guidelines and the President of India should sign the ‘Lynching Law’ that is pending with him since 2019.

Muhammad Raafi is a journalist based in New Delhi. He tweets at @MohammadRaafi