A pall of gloom descended on the two-room house made of red brick, at Kolgaon village of Mewat district in Haryana, as news spread of Rakbar Khan’s death. Rakbar worked as a labourer in the Aravalli hills touching Mewat, but thousands like him turned jobless after a ban was imposed on mining almost a decade ago.
Firstpost spoke to Asmina Khan, wife of Rakbar Khan, 28, who was lynched by an angry mob on the suspicion of cow smuggling, in Alwar district of Rajasthan.
Teary-eyed Asmina Khan has not been able to come to terms with the killing, and still lives in disbelief that the breadwinner of her family of eight will never return. Demanding the death penalty for those who killed her husband, Asmina, who is unlettered, said that the accused have not killed just one person. “Rakbar had the responsibility to feed our four sons and three daughters. Now when he is no more, who will earn and feed the eight of us? I am not educated or exposed to the outside world, or skilled at anything. Who will feed our family?” questioned Asmina.
Recalling the fateful day, Asmina said, “I had cooked bread and vegetable curry for him. He had borrowed Rs 50,000 from my father to buy two new cows.” She said they have two cows at home, and meet their household expenses by selling milk to a local dairy. "Sabzi-paani ka kharcha nikal jata hai, roj chaar litre dood bechte hain hum (Our daily expenses are met by the four litres of milk we sell every day)," she said.
Asmina said they planned to buy the cows from Rajasthan so they could sell more milk to augment their family income and save something for the future, but now, everything is gone. “Cow rearing in not new for the residents of Kolgaon, it is a common practice. I have been rearing cows for four years and love them like family members,” she added.
She said that she married Rakbar 16 years ago, and their eldest daughter is 14. “My husband used to earn well when working for miners but after it was stopped, he was forced to do odd jobs," said Asmina, who is expecting her eighth child in the next few months. Rakbar earned Rs 300-400 a day, and some extra money by selling cow milk.
“Four of the seven children go to the local madarssa, while the remaining three are too young to go to school," she said. Asmina recalled that her husband often said that their children should not undergo the hard times they were living through. Though Rakbar was not educated, he would ask the children to concentrate on studies to become successful.
Asmina said that she was informed about the brutal death of her husband on the morning of July 21. “I couldn't believe my ears but when it was confirmed by local residents, I lost my senses and my children grew feverish after hearing the shocking news," she said.
Her mother and other relatives have come down from Rehna Tapi village and are keeping the household running. “My parents are my only ray of hope but they are also labourers and don't have enough resources to share with my family," she expressed her fear. On allegations of cow smuggling, she said that their profession is selling milk, and those who sell milk don't kill cows.
FATHER TOLD HIM NOT TO GO
Suleman Khan, Rakbar's father, told the media that he had dissuaded him from going to Alwar to buy cows, after reports of violence in the media against those transporting cows. “I tried to persuade him to drop his idea of going to Alwar but he didn't listen to me, and said things would be okay," Suleman said.
Refuting allegations of cow smuggling, he said that selling milk has been their family profession for a long time. Suleman said there has never been any dispute between Hindus and Muslims in Mewat district on cow rearing and milk selling, and that Rajasthan is the hub of violence related to cow transportation.
VILLAGERS FACE DAILY HUMILIATION
Nilotpal Basu, CPI(M) politburo member, and former MP and Haryana secretary Surender Singh visited Ferozepur Jhirka and Kolgaon to meet Rakbar Khan's family.
Basu said Rakbar’s family is very poor, and lives in a thatched house. “He was a marginal dairy farmer and part-time labourer. He has seven children aged 1 year to 14 years. He was the sole breadwinner and the family is devastated by his death," Basu said in a statement. He said that Kolgaon is on the Haryana border, and the nearest town is Navgaon in Rajasthan, just 9 kms away. “These residents visit Navgaon for their daily needs and have to face humiliation there. Their motorcycles, tractors and other vehicles are towed away by police. Even when they take their cattle for insemination, they are caught, attacked, humiliated and sometimes their cattle are also taken away. There is a bias among the police of adjoining Rajasthan areas against these people,” he claimed.
Victim's wife Asmina Khan wailing at the death of her husband Rakbar Khan.
Her seven children left orphaned Rakbar was killed in a village in Rajasthan.
Mourners and visitors at the victim's home
(Photos procured by Sat Singh)
Sat Singh is a Rohtak-based freelance reporter. He is a member of 101reporters