BHOPAL: Eleven days after two middle-aged tribal men were allegedly lynched by a mob of cow vigilantes associated with the Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sena in Seoni district over suspicion of cow slaughter, the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has finally acted.
The CM ordered the constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the entire incident and related aspects with immediate effect. He also ordered the removal of Seoni district police superintendent Kumar Prateek from the tribal-dominated district and further directed the removal of the entire staff of Kurai police station and Badalpur police chowki of the same district.
The SIT headed by the Principal Secretary (Home) Rajesh Rajoura will visit Seoni district soon and submit its findings to the government within 10 days.
Questioning the delayed response of the CM in the matter, former CM and state Congress president Kamal Nath tweeted that the delayed action by the CM has been taken under the growing pressure from tribals.
"The government was first trying to cover up the matter through statements aimed at saving the accused belonging to outfits allied to BJP. Now the government has ordered a SIT probe under pressure of tribals. Even the action taken by the CM now is incomplete. Instead of an SIT probe, a high-level probe is needed," Nath tweeted.
मध्यप्रदेश के सिवनी ज़िले में दो आदिवासियों की हत्या के मामले में सरकार की नींद 12 दिन बाद खुली है।— Kamal Nath (@OfficeOfKNath) May 14, 2022
वह भी कांग्रेस व आदिवासी वर्ग के दबाव में यह निर्णय लिया गया है।
Importantly, both the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress had sent fact-finding teams to the Simiriya village where the alleged mob lynching had happened on May 3 early morning. On return, the Congress team led by the leader of the opposition Dr Govind Singh had demanded a judicial probe by a sitting High Court judge in the entire matter.
A BJP fact-finding team that went to the Simiriya village after the Congress team returned, had to face resistance from tribals, who raised anti-Shivraj Singh Chouhan slogans in the presence of the BJP probe panel.
The twin mob lynchings had led to massive public protests in Seoni, which falls in the tribal-dominated Mahakoshal region where the ruling BJP had performed miserably in the 2018 assembly polls.
A team of BSP led by the party's Rajya Sabha member Ramji Gautam too had visited the district.
Importantly, the protests that were led by the Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) also had participation from the opposition Congress, BSP, left parties, BAMCEF and tribal outfits like Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS), raising the possibility of Seoni becoming the ideal breeding ground for a united opposition alliance and the coming together of tribals, schedule caste and minorities against the ruling BJP, which is working hard to revive its prospects among state's 21% tribal voters and 16% SC voters.
The Seoni district forms part of MP's tribal-dominated Mahakoshal region, where the ex-CM and state Congress chief Kamal Nath has a major influence.
So far, 13 men, mostly hailing from the Bajrang Dal and the Sri Ram Sena, have been arrested for the May 3 mob lynching of the two tribals.
Why Seoni district has turned into a hotspot of cattle smuggling and slaughter in MP
Housing a population of around 18 lakhs, 65%-70% of whom are Gone tribals, the Seoni district (which is bordered by Maharashtra's Nagpur district) has emerged as the prime hotspot of alleged cattle smuggling and cow slaughter incidents in MP.
According to the statistics accessed by The New Indian Express from the MP State Police HQ, Seoni is not only among the 13 districts (most of them bordering Maharashtra and Rajasthan) that are highly sensitive to cattle smuggling and slaughter, but with over 430 incidents, it is on the top among those five districts of the state, which have reported maximum such incidents in last four years.
Seoni comes in the second category of MP districts, which houses the most non-vegetarian eaters. Bhopal, Indore and Jabalpur are among the first category, housing the maximum number of non-vegetarians.
Importantly, as per a senior MP police official who has been posted in Seoni for the last few years, the prime reason behind Seoni reporting the highest number of cattle smuggling cases is that it falls along the transit route of cattle smugglers from various parts of India (particularly UP, Rajasthan and Haryana) to Maharashtra, which neighbours Seoni. Further, incidents of cow slaughter in dense forests and possible local consumption of beef in Seoni district too cannot be ruled out totally.
Importantly, the 45-year-old Sampat, one of the two tribal men lynched by the Hindu right-wing cow vigilantes in the wee hours on May 3, had been arrested with over 40 kg of beef in October 2021 and was released on bail after a month in jail.
The Seoni police had seized on May 3 morning around 12 kg of suspected cow meat from the two critically wounded tribal men and booked them under the state's anti-cow slaughter law, just a few hours before they died at the hospital.