Last Friday Uttar Pradesh Police arrested nine people, including two minor girls, on charges of cow slaughter in Muzaffarnagar. The two girls claimed that they were not part of the cow slaughter and they were not adults. But the police arrested them and sent them to jail for 14 days of judicial custody instead of sending them to juvenile homes.
According to their Aadhaar cards, the age of the two girls was 12 and 16 years old. The two girls were presented in court as adults when they repeatedly claimed to be minors. Later they were sent to jail when they should have been sent to correctional homes.
The two girls were arrested on Friday along with their mothers, aunts and other men from a house in Khatauli area of Muzaffarnagar on charges of cow slaughter. The police raided a house of one Naseemuddin in Khatauli and recovered 10 quintals of meat and instruments to slaughter animals.Naseemuddin and the four other accused, managed to run away from the spot when they heard about the raid, said the police. The police arrested Reshma, Afsana, Ajeem, Naseemuddin's wife Sehjadi and Naseemuddin's two minor daughters. Besides them the police also arrested Sehnawaz, Mehtab and Ashfaq, the local residents and the neighbours of Naseemuddin on charges of cow slaughter.
The fact that police handcuffed the two minors and sent them to jail when the law mandates that minors are not supposed to be handcuffed has led to huge protest and anger among the people in the city. A large mob protested on Saturday before the Khatauli police station demanding why were the two minor girls not produced before juvenile justice board and why were they not sent to correctional homes instead of jail.
The Senior Superintendent of Police of Muzaffarnagar Ajay Sahdev told NewsClick that the police was not aware of the possibility of the two of the accused being minor.
“We have received a complaint that the two girls who were arrested by the police on charges of cow slaughter are minor. I have ordered a probe into this episode. I have asked the Station House Officer (SHO) of Khatauli police station to inquire into this and do the needful,” Sahdev told newsClick.
The SHO of Khatauli Police Station Ambika Prasad, however, told NewsClick that he was yet to receive any order to that effect.
“I have not heard anything like that from my superior as yet. If a probe has been ordered then I am yet to receive the order. If the two girls are minor then they have not yet provided any evidence to prove that they are minor and that is why they should not be sent to jails,” Prasad said.
Though Prasad alleged that the police team was attacked by the accused, when asked if they sustained injuries, he said the policemen were not injured during the alleged attack.
He also claimed that beef was recovered from Naseemuddin's house and that the district veterinary officer had confirmed that the meat seized was beef.
The arrest of the three women and two minor girls on charges of cow slaughter has created tension in Khatauli area with many local groups threatening to mass agitate if the women and the minor girls were not released. Local residents have threatened to organise a mahapanchayat if the police do not release the “innocent women and arrests the actual culprits”.
The arrest has also met with condemnation from social and political groups in western Uttar Pradesh.
The leaders of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), the biggest body of farmers in the State, told the media that they will raise the issue with the SSP Ajay Sehdev.
“I and other office bearers of BKU will meet the SSP to raise this issue. I am surprised to know why the women were arrested in this case. Leave the women; police arrested two minor girls in this case which is surprising. The police cannot arrest everyone who is present in a house without investigation,” said Zaheer Faruqui national adviser of BKU.
“The police should arrest people but only after an investigation. And even if they were guilty, the girls should not have been sent to jail if they were minors. There is proper law in the country for minors. The police cannot just violate the law like this,” he added.
Former Congress MP Harinder Malik also criticised the police action and said, “The police must investigate first. It seems like the police acted in too much of hurry in this case just because it was about cow slaughter. Nobody should be punished or victimized due to their identity.”
The Samajwadi Party leader and former state minister Ompal Nehra condemned the “manner in which the women were treated” by the police.
“The law says that the onus to prove guilt is on the police and the prosecution. But It seems that during the BJP regime, this basic idea of law has been changed and now it is the responsibility of the innocents to prove their innocence. Earlier it was that one is innocent until proven guilty but now the BJP has changed it to 'one is guilty until proven innocent especially,” he told NewsClick.