TT, New Delhi, April 7: Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi today admitted a dairy farmer had been murdered in Rajasthan's Alwar, a day after denying the incident in Parliament, but appealed to members not to mention the religion of the accused.
"This is a very sensitive issue. Rajasthan government is taking strongest possible steps.... Those who committed, they are hooligans. Don't see them as Hindus or Muslims," Naqvi said, when leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad raised the matter in the Rajya Sabha.
Yesterday, when the murder of Pehlu Khan, 55, by cow vigilantes was first raised, Naqvi had said "no such incident has happened on the ground the way the incident is being presented". He had added that Parliament could not been seen as supporting cow slaughter.
Today he said an FIR had been filed by the Rajasthan government in the case.
Five dairy farmers, including Khan and two of his sons, were attacked on Saturday when they were returning from Jaipur after purchasing a milch cow from a fair. The cow vigilantes let off the truck driver after asking him his name, which was Arjun.
Today, Naqvi said: "Criminals are criminals who are committing violence. If the criminals are seen as Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians, it will send a wrong message. We are here to create communal harmony in the country. If we give this kind of message, our objective to strengthen harmony will appear weak."
Naqvi claimed his denial of the incident yesterday was with reference to the allegations made by Congress leader Madhusudan Mistry about such incidents in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
But deputy chairman P.J. Kurien underlined: "Naqvi yesterday said the incident has not happened. Today he told the House that yes it has happened."
Azad criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has not spoken out against the lynching of the dairy farmer. "Prime Minister has used strong words against cow vigilantes. But we feel that... The Prime Minister was saying something to please the public," Azad said, referring to Modi's description of gau rakshaks as "anti-socials" last year.
"Three persons have been arrested. A BJP MLA said that he (Khan) died of heart attack. The doctor has spoken about internal injury. If someone slaps a person, he is sent to 14 days of remand. But here the remand is for one day in a case of murder. That means there is effort to dismiss the case from the beginning," Azad alleged.
After Naqvi said home minister Rajnath Singh would make a statement in the Rajya Sabha on the incident on Monday, the Opposition leader accused the government of insulting the upper House by not promptly responding to concerns raised by members.
"Home minister should have come in the morning to make a statement. Now, making a statement four days later, after holidays, is unjust," he said.