Gyan Dev Ahuja, former MLA of the BJP from Ramgarh segment in Alwar, Rajasthan
Rajasthan BJP leader Gyan Dev Ahuja has been caught on camera urging a crowd to "kill anyone involved in cow slaughter", saying, "We have so far killed five people, be it in Lalawandi or Behror," in a direct reference to the lynching of Rakbar Khan and Pehlu Khan.
Both of those murders — one in 2017, the other in 2018 — took place in Ramgarh, the area from where Gyan Dev Ahuja was the MLA when BJP was in power in the state. It wasn't immediately clear which other three murders he was referring to.
"I have given free hand to workers to kill. We will get them acquitted and secure bail," he says in the video, apparently from earlier this week. All six accused in Pehlu Khan's murder were acquitted in 2019 but an appeal by the state's Congress government is now pending in the high court. In Rakbar Khan's murder, the trial is still on in the local court.
After the video went viral on Saturday, the BJP leader was booked on charges for spreading communal disharmony, under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code. He has made similar comments earlier, going as far as to say the killers are "patriots" and "true descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji and Guru Gobind Singh".
The BJP's Alwar unit today said those are "his own views". "The party does not have this thinking," BJP's Alwar South chief Sanjay Singh Naruka told news agency PTI.
But Mr Ahuja defended his stance: "Anyone involved in cow smuggling and slaughter won't be spared." He did tweak his statement a bit: "I said five Meo Muslims who were smuggling cows were beaten up by our workers."
In the video, he made the comments adding to an appeal by another speaker — he described him as a leader of the RSS — for an agitation against the murder of 45-year-old Chiranjilal Saini, who was killed by a mob in Govindgarh town last Sunday upon suspicion of tractor theft. BJP leaders and right-wing groups have said it was a lynching over religion, though police have not found a communal angle.
Rajasthan Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra, who shared the video on Twitter today, said, "What more proof is needed of the BJP's religious terror and bigotry? The real face of the BJP has been exposed."
Pehlu Khan, 55, was lynched in Behror in April 2017; Rakbar Khan, 28, in Lalawandi villge in July 2018. Both were from neighbouring Haryana and belonged to the Meo Muslim community that's mostly engaged in the dairy trade. They were transporting cattle and were lynched by vigilantes who claimed to protect cows.
In 2019, the six men who dragged Pehlu Khan by the neck, threw him to the ground, and kicked him repeatedly, were acquitted by a court in Rajasthan on "benefit of doubt". The case is in the high court since, as the Congress-led state government filed an appeal later that year.
Trial for Rakbar Khan's murder is on at the local court, where his family has expressed fears of bias.