There was an eerie silence in a village of Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district. As one crosses the green pasture field, they reach Ghatmeeka village, which is still reeling with shock from the deaths of their residents Junaid and Nasir.

Both Junaid and Nasir are the residents of Ghatmeeka village; their charred bodies were found in Haryana’s Bhiwani. They were killed allegedly by members of the Bajrang Dal. The victims’ vehicle was set on and their bodies reduced to charred bones and ashes.

This is said to have happened after accusations of cow smuggling were made against the victims.

Outside Junaid’s house, a group of people sat mourning his death. They said Junaid was trying to open a shop opposite his home.

Speaking to The Citizen Jemeel Ahmad, Junaid’s uncle said that both the men had left early morning on January 15. “They had left their house to meet some family members who lived in a different village. They had rented a car for it. However, we were not able to contact the men after a few hours,” he said.

While Junaid and Nasir were uncle and nephew, they were close to each other, the family members said. No one was prepared to witness the sudden and violent demise of the men.

Sarda Begum, Nasir’s eldest sister, said that he was a hardworking and sweet man. “Ask anyone in the village and no one would have said anything bad about him or even Junaid,” she said, trying to control her tears.

Both Junaid and Nasir’s wives were unwell and not able to speak. Their children, on the other hand, sat motionless as a flow of people went in and out of Junaid’s house.

The case has been described as another case of cow vigilantism. However, it is the brutality of the case that has shaken the core of everyone in the village.

A first information report (FIR) under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) has been registered against the accused Lokesh, Rinku Saini, Srikant, and Monu Manesar under Sections 143 (unlawful assembly), 365 (abduction), 367 (kidnapping or abducting in order to subject a person to grievous hurt, slavery) and 368 (wrongful Confinement).

The complaint was registered after Junaid’s cousin Ismail went to the police station. Ismail was meeting lawyers when The Citizen went to meet him.

More sections are said to have been added to the FIR. However, people in the village have alleged that they have been victims of such attacks from the past few years.

The grieving family members also have to give explanations about the allegations on both Nasir and Junaid. While there are no previous criminal records on Nasir, Junaid has five previous cases of cow smuggling, Bharatpur Inspector General Gaurav Srivastava has said.

Sarda, on this said, this also is a torture that they have to go through. “I lost my brother. His wife lost her husband. All these allegations are wrong and baseless. Nasir has never done anything. Also, is there no law and order? Even if there were charges against someone, do you kill people?” she asks, crying.

Junaid’s sister-in-law, who was inconsolable, said that the family is in shock and has no hope of any justice. “He is gone without any reason. Who kills so brutally? No one is going to bring him back,” she said.

Junaid’s family have claimed that the members of the Bajrang Dal took the duo to the Firozpur Jhirka police in Haryana. But they (Junaid and Nasir) were not taken into custody by the police since they were grievously injured due to the assault, the family has alleged.

Junaid and Nasir’s family members had spent over a day searching for them, and finding clues to trace them down, after which they had registered an FIR in the Gopalgarh police station. It wasn’t until the Bolero in which they were travelling was found burnt in Bhiwani that an alarm was sounded back home.

“They were kidnapped and killed by Bajrang Dal. We had even thought of filing a missing complaint before this,” Sarda added.

Nasir’s elder brother told The Citizen the police did not do anything to help his brothers. “I am tired of repeating what has happened and I feel there is no point in saying anything,” he said.

Amidst all the grieving, Junaid’s brother Javed has sat down in protest at the location of the grave site where the two have been buried. Sitting under the screeching heat, Javed told The Citizen, he is not going to get up till the time police do not arrest Monu, one of the main accused in the case.

He said that while the Rajasthan Police and authorities are doing their best, there is no word from the Haryana Police.

“They have announced a compensation of Rs. 21 lakh, but we do not care about that. Will my brother come back from this money? I demand that this terrorist Monu be arrested,” he said.

Villagers, meanwhile, also said that there was a fear of Monu and some members of Bajrang Dal, who had done these same things before.

The villagers said that a few days back, a Muslim man named Waris had died in the same area. According to Waris’ family, he was lynched by Bajrang Dal members led by Monu.

Monu, on the other hand, has denied the charge. Police officials told the media that Waris died in a road accident. Before his death, a seemingly injured Waris who could still speak was featured in a Facebook video (now deleted) posted by Bajrang Dal leader Monu.

“While Waris was attacked, there was another youth who was brutally beaten by the same people two years back. Not only that, there were regular reports of theft by these men. Any Muslim youth who were on their way were stopped and robbed. They were also brutally beaten up,” Jemeel Ahmad said.

In a tweet, the Bharatpur Police said that an investigation into the incident was ongoing and an FIR has been lodged against the accused at the Gopalgarh police station. Police Station Officer, Gopalgarh, has been instructed to take “immediate action” in the matter.

The police are waiting for the postmortem report to ascertain the cause of death.

Speaking to the media, DSP Jagat Singh Loharu said that it’s not clear if they have been set ablaze or if it is an accident

However, various media organisations have seen the charred bodies that were kept inside their home for a full day. “We could not even recognise the boys,” Sarda said.

Various videos have gone viral on social media shared from Monu’s facebook page where they are seen beating Muslim youth. Monu is at the forefront after this attack, but this is not the first time his name has come across such a case.

Villagers said that they were painfully aware of the man as they had heard what he had been doing.

A leader of Bajrang Dal, Monu runs a cow protection group. His name has been associated with various incidents of violence where the group claimed to have caught cow smugglers.

Monu’s name is also in Waris’s murder case that happened in Haryana’s Nuh, where according to reports he is feared and allegedly goes around beating people in the name of cow vigilantism.

However, in Waris' case, the police didn’t convert the complaint into an FIR, saying that the victim succumbed to injuries that he sustained in an accident. Monu has denied all the allegations on record saying that he was “nowhere near the scene”.

In the past five years, Monu, a Bajrang Dal member, has emerged as the face of the cow protection task force of the Haryana government in Gurgaon.

Monu (28) is a diploma holder from a polytechnic college who describes himself as a ‘gau rakshak’ and social activist. He joined Bajrang Dal as a district co-coordinator from Monu in 2011 and earns a living by subletting rooms to labourers in the Monu area.

Currently, Monu is the head of the district’s cow protection force and also a member of the civil defence team of district administration in Monu.

According to reports, Monu has “vowed to protect cows and rescue cattle”. Last year, he also organised a panchayat at a temple that had called for an “economic boycott of Muslim shopkeepers and vendors” in the area.

Ironically, Monu is also an influential personality and several photos of him with police officials and bureaucrats have surfaced. Monu also has a strong social media following and has 83,000 followers on Facebook and 2,05,000 subscribers on YouTube.

Not only that, Monu recently (October 2022) received a silver play button from YouTube as he crossed 1 lakh subscribers on Youtube. The videos on his YouTube channels are mostly on how the cow vigilante group catches cow smugglers. These videos, mostly live streams, have thousands of views and comments.

He is allegedly on the run, with police saying it is conducting regular raids to abduct the man. Monu has refuted the charges in connection with the Bhiwani deaths and said when the incident took place he was in the hotel.

Meanwhile, a support rally was taken out in support of Monu in Gurgaon, with his supporters saying, “they will support him no matter what”.

According to a press note released by Rajasthan police late Friday evening, one of the accused, Rinku Saini has been arrested. Rinku Saini is a taxi driver in Ferozepur Jhirka and chases people who indulge in cow smuggling, the press note further said, adding that he will now be questioned about the other people involved in this incident.

He added that they also met Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Monday, who have assured them that they will speak to the Haryana government.

Akram Khan, a social worker whose brother-in-law Rahul Khan was lynched in 2021 in Haryana’s Palwal came to express his solidarity with the victims families.

Twenty-three-year-old Rahul Khan was killed near Haryana’s Rasoolpur village. After being assaulted and left severely injured, he breathed his last on December 15.

Speaking to The Citizen, Akram Khan recalled how painful it was to see his family member killed so brutally. “The men were arrested but till now nothing has been done. The case is going at such a slow pace. What people don’t understand is the loss we have to endure of losing a loved one,” he said.

Junaid’s brother Javed, meanwhile, has also asked for a fast-track court to handle the case.

All Photographs Nikita Jain.