Nine years after two men in a village in Uttar Pradesh had been arrested on charges of cow slaughter, a district court has convicted them of the crime, according to a report in The Indian Express. The accused, Israil and Ninna (a.k.a Minna), have been sentenced to five years in prison.
The men were booked in 2007 after Shamli police recovered 40 kg of meat, allegedly of a cow, from them in Azizpur village in Western UP. Knives were also lying in the spot where the animal had been killed.
Oddly, the meat wasn't sent to a forensic lab for testing, which is the standard practice in such crimes. Instead, a chargesheet was filed against the men based on a report submitted by the district veterinary officer. But the additional district sessions judge was undeterred by the situation. He not only ordered imprisonment of the men but also slapped a fine of Rs 10,000 on each of them.
As recently as last year, a lynch mob attacked Mohammad Akhlaq in UP's Dadri village and killed him on suspicions of possessing beef in the fridge at his home. According to the forensic report, the genus of the meat was from a cow or its progeny, but there was no conclusive evidence that Akhlaq, or his family, was responsible for killing an animal. That did not stop locals from demanding Akhlaq's brother to be arrested as well, though investigations had revealed he was nowhere near the scene of the alleged slaughter.
Israil's wife Munni claims her husband, who is a poor labourer, was wrongly framed by the villagers. The case involved a third accused, Saleem, who was also arrested, while the others were initially absconding. After he confessed to his crime, the court sentenced Saleem to a jail term, till 2010, which he has already served. His accomplices were undergoing trial for the last seven years.
Shamli is a communally sensitive district in UP, where rumours of another case of cow slaughter were heard as recently as last month. According to The Hindu, villagers in Babri became enraged after they discovered a cow missing from among them. The police had to intervene, file a first information report, and mediate between the Hindu and Muslim residents to avert the possibility of communal clashes.
Defence counsel Mohammad Mustafa told The Indian Express that an appeal will be filed against the district court's judgement, on behalf of Israil and Ninna, in the Allahabad High Court.
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