Muslim ambushed by cow vigilantes in India missing for two years | Islamophobia News

Adeyemi Adeyemi
Adeyemi Adeyemi

Global Courant

Mumbai, India – Rafiq Tamboli would now be 33 years old. Or maybe he still is. His wife doesn’t know if he’s dead or alive. No one has seen him for at least two years.

Rafiq, a resident of Qureshi Nagar in the Kurla district of Mumbai, worked as a driver and transported meat for a number of traders in the animal industry.

On June 4, 2021, he was ordered to collect meat from the town of Daund in the Pune district of Maharashtra – about 250 km from Mumbai, the state capital.

- Advertisement -

After loading the meat into his truck, Rafiq began a five-hour journey back home at about 9 p.m. He called his wife, Reshma Tamboli, just before he started driving.

“It was a normal conversation,” the 35-year-old told Al Jazeera. “I asked him if he had eaten. He said he would do it in half an hour. That was about it.”

Reshma Tamboli says she has no hope of ever getting justice or closure (Parth MN/Al Jazeera)

Reshma didn’t know this would be their last conversation.

At about 10:30 pm that night, Rafiq’s truck was intercepted and stopped by cow vigilantes on the highway near Ravangaon village in Daund. He has not been seen since – neither alive nor dead.

- Advertisement -

What happened next is a mystery.

When Rafiq didn’t come back that night, Reshma started calling him frantically. The phone was off.

When he did not return three days later, she went to the local police station in Chunabhatti locality of Mumbai to file a complaint.

- Advertisement -

“The police called the man Rafiq worked for,” Reshma said. “Then he told us that his truck had been intercepted by cow guards in Daund.”

The moment she heard that, her heart sank.

Since 2014, when the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there have been cases of mob lynching in India on the pretext of protecting cows, considered sacred by some Hindus.

Critics believe that the cow vigilantes, who are organized, often armed and once found on the fringes of society, have gone mainstream after they began to enjoy the political patronage of the BJP.

A New Delhi-based center that has been collecting data on atrocities against Indian minorities, mostly Muslims, since 2014 has a category for cow-related violence.

The Documentation Of The Oppressed (DOTO) database, which was updated to August last year, found 206 such cases involving more than 850 people — an overwhelming majority of them Muslims.

“Even if you killed him, let me know”

Reshma, fearing the worst, immediately traveled to Daund police station, where Rafiq’s truck was parked.

“The police told us that the truck driver had run away,” she told Al Jazeera. “The cow guards had informed the police about this in a written statement.”

The statement was written by a self-proclaimed cow vigilante named Shiv Shankar Swami.

In the statement, Swami, 27, said that at 5pm that day he heard from his sources about a truck carrying cow meat to Mumbai.

According to the statement, Swami gathered some members of his Akhil Bhartiya Krishi Gauseva Sangh (All India Agriculture Cow Service Organization) and waited for Rafiq at Ravangaon village of Daund along the Pune-Solapur highway.

At 10:30 PM, Swami’s statement says, they noticed the truck and signaled the driver to stop. The moment the driver, Rafiq, saw the cow vigilantes, he ran away and they couldn’t catch him, Swami said.

The statement further claims that the truck was carrying approximately two tons of cow and bull meat, covered in ice. The group then called Daund police and asked them to seize the truck.

However, Reshma asks if that was the case, why has Rafiq not contacted his family since then.

“Why wouldn’t he come home for two years?” she asks. “Why wouldn’t he want to see his kids?”

She breaks down when she thinks back to the time she had the conversation with her children about the possibility of their father never coming back. Her daughter, Shaista, is 12 and son, Hasan is 10.

“They kept asking where he is,” Reshma told Al Jazeera.

‘What was I supposed to tell them? In the end I told them that your father may never come back. I hope no mother ever has to have this conversation with her children.”

Reshma says that she even met Swami at Daund police station and fell on his feet while asking about her husband. “I begged him to tell me where Rafiq was,” she said.

“I even said if you killed him, let me know. All I want now is to close. I just want to know if he’s dead or alive. I can’t even properly mourn with this uncertainty.”

But Swami stood by his story and told Reshma that she was just like his sister and he did not have the license to kill people.

But it’s not that simple.

‘They called Swami’s name’

On June 24 this year, two Muslim men from the same place where Reshma lived returned from Nashik, about 200 km from Mumbai, carrying 450 kg of meat.

Again, the cow rangers intercepted their car, dragged them out and took them to a nearby wooded area, where they were tied to a tree trunk and beaten for three hours.

One of them, Afan Ansari, 32, died on the spot. The other, Nasir Hussain, 24, survived.

“When I spoke to Hussain, he categorically mentioned the name of Shiv Shankar Swami which he had heard among the cow vigilantes,” Hussain’s uncle Shafiullah Shah told Al Jazeera.

“They called his (Swami’s) name while beating up the boys.”

According to Shah, Hussain told him that the vigilantes received a call in which the man on the other end of the line – believed to be Swami – told them to “kill the landyas” – a slur often used against Muslims in BJP-ruled Maharashtra.

An internet search for Swami’s name yields several news reports of cow vigilance in Maharashtra dating between 2015 and 2017. He has been under police protection since 2015 due to a “threat perception” to his life, having filed several police cases against cow smuggling and allegedly making enemies.

According to media reports, Swami is also a government-appointed “honour animal welfare officer”.

Reshma therefore says she has no hope of ever getting justice or closure. She has not been pursuing the case with the Daund police for a year now.

“Initially, the police conducted a small search when I went to the police station,” she says.

‘But I can’t keep going back. I have two children to take care of. I’ve already spent a lot of money going back and forth from Daund. Pursuit of justice is expensive in India.”

Bhausaheb Patil, the police inspector at Daund, told Al Jazeera last week that Rafiq’s “is an old case and I will have to look into it” for the latest updates.

When asked what would be a good time to call back, he said, “I’m in a meeting and I’ll call you back.” Patil never did.

Reshma ran from pillar to post in the first year of Rafiq’s absence. She even printed posters of him and posted them herself in the areas where he went missing.

“I was all alone at night, putting up the missing posters,” she recalls. “I went overnight so that I could return to Mumbai to work the next day. I wasn’t even worried about my safety.”

Once, Reshma had gone to Daund for a follow-up with her children and the police told her to come back the next morning. She had no money for a hotel and she didn’t know anyone in town.

“I slept on the road under a tree with my kids,” she told Al Jazeera. “I did everything I could, but I couldn’t keep up.”

Reshma and Rafiq had saved about 100,000 rupees ($1,218) and made a fixed deposit for their children. She had to break the deposit to pay for the expenses she incurred while following up on the case.

“I realized that if I continued, I would put my children’s future at risk,” says Reshma. “So I have now withdrawn.”

Every day she gets up and gets her children ready for school, after which she goes to the market to sell onions and potatoes.

“My in-laws used to do it all the time,” she says. “But after they passed away about six, seven years ago, I took over. I earn 250-300 rupees ($3.05-3.66) per day. I just want to provide a good life for my children.”

Reshma resigns herself to the idea that Rafiq will never come back. She is almost certain that the cow rangers killed him. But even then, she sometimes struggles with the idea of ​​a miracle.

“The thought occasionally comes up,” she admits. “What if he’s alive?” But then uncertainty takes over. “It’s a horrible feeling to live with.”

Muslim ambushed by cow vigilantes in India missing for two years | Islamophobia News

Africa Region News ,Next Big Thing in Public Knowledg

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *