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Can’t afford single meal at times, but will fight on, says Pehlu family House Needs Repair, Legal Costs Pile Up As Kin Get Ready To Move High Court

August 31, 2019 05:48 AM

COURTESY TOI AUG 31

Can’t afford single meal at times, but will fight on, says Pehlu family
House Needs Repair, Legal Costs Pile Up As Kin Get Ready To Move High Court
Vishakha.Chaman@timesgroup.com

Fear hasn’t left his side since the day Irshad witnessed the fatal attack on his father Pehlu Khan. Every time he steps out, Pehlu’s eldest son is accompanied by a group of concerned neighbours. Six to seven men from the basti always make the journey with Irshad to Alwar, Behror, Jaipur or whichever city the summons, probes and court hearings take him to.

To Irshad and other members of the family, home has felt like a strange place since the attack on Pehlu and his death in April 2017. Friends have grown indifferent and strangers have taken little time to turn hostile. The shadow of fear, anxiety that Irshad might be the target of an attack any time, has loomed over the pursuit of justice.


Rajasthan’s Behror town, where Pehlu was killed, is 135km from their house in Jaisingpur village in Nuh, the district adjoining Gurgaon. The Alwar court is 117km away. “The court is in their area. I cannot go there alone. They (vigilantes) have become more fearless now. They can attack me any time,” said 28-year-old Irshad, referring to the acquittal recently of the six accused of killing his father.

The family has sold all its cattle and its income has dwindled. Legal costs have added to financial strains. Parts of the house have fallen into neglect. Mold has attacked the green verandah wall that stands in memoriam to Pehlu: his name has been pencilled on it, in Hindi.

Pehlu’s forefathers traded cattle and sold milk. It’s been the family occupation for decades. The sheds in their courtyard are now mostly empty, home to four goats and a buffalo. “I fear the word cow now. We cannot even think of buying one for selling milk,” said Pehlu’s widow Jaibuna.

On April 1, 2017, when Pehlu was attacked, he, along with his two sons Irshad and Arif, was returning from a cattle fair in Jaipur after buying two cows and their two calves. Pehlu had bought the four for Rs 45,000. One calf was 10 days old and the other six.

TWO YEARS, THREE MONTHS: AN ARDUOUS JOURNEY

“After the hearing began, there were days when we could not afford a single meal. Such was the financial crisis,” recalled 51-year-old Jaibuna. “But we have never thought of giving up. Even if the case requires selling off our house, we shall do that. We have decided to fight till our last breath.”

Some people have provided them financial aid for the legal battle but Irshad said the money the family has received is meagre. Just booking a vehicle for court visits costs Rs 3,000 each time. “I don’t know what will happen next. But we have to survive and get justice,” Irshad said, adding that some well-wishers had helped after Urdu poet Imran Pratapgarhi put his mother’s account number details online.

Irshad has completely devoted himself to the case. His younger brothers, Arif and Mubarik, earn Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 a month doing odd jobs. They have a tractor, which is used for transportation and in farms. The family manages to get by some months. They struggle other times.

Pehlu’s 13-year-old daughter, Huniza, wanted to be a teacher but left her studies after he died. “All of us were in grief. Our abba’s death was something we were never prepared for. I wanted to teach but left studies to help my mother take care of the family,” Huniza said, lugging a bucket she had filled from a nearby pond.

Saghun Khan, a neighbour, understands the family’s financial worries. “They don’t even have agricultural land like some of us have in the village,” he said.

REMEMBERING APRIL 1, 2017

It was the evening of March 31, 2017. Pehlu, Irshad and Arif had set out on a journey to buy cattle from a fair organized by the municipal corporation in Jaipur. On April 1, 2017, when the fair kicked off, Pehlu and his sons looked for a deal that would fit their budget. “Abba had told us that we were going to buy buffaloes. Since they were beyond our budget, he decided to buy two cows, which we could afford. We got a good deal and left the fair after paying the cattle owner,” said Irshad. As soon as Pehlu and his two sons crossed a culvert near Behror, they noticed some men on motorcycles chasing them. The men asked them to stop. What happened after that changed their lives forever.

The men chasing Khan and his two sons dragged them out of the van and started beating them mercilessly.

“A big crowd surrounded us and joined in. Despite my father telling the people that the cattle was bought from the fair not for slaughtering, his pleas for mercy went unanswered. A mob had formed by then. After that, we were taken to a hospital in an ambulance where my abba succumbed to his injuries after three days,” said Irshad. Pehlu died in the hospital on April 4, 2017, and named six people in his dying declaration.

“He had not stolen anything. He was not a thief. He did no harm to anybody. He was punished for no mistake,” Jaibuna said.

READY FOR THE NEXT BATTLE

On August 14, a sessions court in Alwar acquitted the six men charged with Pehlu’s lynching, giving them the benefit of doubt. “We had our hopes pinned on this verdict. But the day brought disappointment and nothing else. We are going to appeal in the high court against the verdict,” Jaibuna said.

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot announced constitution of a special investigation team (SIT), headed by DIG Nitin Deep Blaggan, to re-investigate the case.

But the verdict opened wounds again for the family that was hoping for justice. They now plan to get ready for another battle in the high court. Determined, Jaibuna said the verdict from the Alwar court hurt the family but has not broken them completely. “We are readying for the next battle. We have fought the case with great difficulty so far and intend to go on. We cannot bring him back but we can certainly get justice

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