Muslim ambushed by cow vigilantes in India missing for two years

Rafiq Tamboli would have been 33 years old now. Or maybe he still is. His wife doesn’t know if he is dead or alive. Nobody has seen him for at least two years.

A resident of Qureshi Nagar in Mumbai’s Kurla locality, Rafiq worked as a driver transporting meat for a couple of traders in the animal industry.On June 4, 2021, he received an assignment to pick up meat from the city of Daund in Pune district of Maharashtra – about 250km (155 miles) from Mumbai, the state capital.

After loading the meat in his truck, Rafiq embarked on a five-hour journey back home at about 9pm. 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 had dinner. He said he would in half an hour or so. That was about it.”Little did Reshma know that it would be their last conversation.

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

What happened after that is anybody’s guess.When Rafiq did not return that night, Reshma frantically started calling him. The phone was switched off.

When he did not return even three days later, she went to the local police station in Mumbai’s Chunabhatti locality to file a complaint.Critics believe the cow vigilantes, who are organised, often armed and once found on the fringes of society, have become mainstream after they started enjoying the BJP’s political patronage.

A New Delhi-based centre which has collated data on atrocities against India’s minorities, mainly Muslims, since 2014 has a category for cow-related violence.

The Documentation Of The Oppressed (DOTO) database, which has been updated until August last year, found 206 such instances involving more than 850 people – an overwhelming majority of them Muslims.

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