When Mushtaqeem (22) and his brother Salman (17) went home for lunch on Sunday, 16th of September, they had little knowledge of what awaited them. Naushad (17) their friend and neighbour had also accompanied them for lunch. Their families had shifted to Atroli, a village near Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, only a year back.
Mushtaqeem worked in a nearby cloth shop while Naushad and Salman worked in a home-based workshop which produced garments. Just as they were about to have lunch, a contingent of UP police barged into their small house.
The police dragged the three boys from their homes and started to beat them ruthlessly. With them, they also dragged and beat their neighbour youth, Nafis (23) who is mentally challenged. Their mothers, Shabana (40), Shaheen (42) and Rafeeqan (55), shocked and helpless, witnessed their sons being forcefully taken by the police. Mushtaqeem’s wife Heena (18), is also a witness to the brutality of the police.
The police informed the women that the men were involved in the murder of a Hindu priest Sadhu Ramdas in Saafedarpur, in a nearby village, which had happened a few days back. The women of the household claimed this was a concocted story as the men never left the village in the recent past. The local neighbours corroborated the same to TWJ on the 27th of September. They also agreed that the men had no criminal past record and have been staying and working in the village for the last one year.
The ordeal of the women had only begun.
Shabana’s husband Irfan (50) who worked as a daily labourer did not return from his work that night. He has not returned, even at the time of the filing of this report. He has no phone and is untraceable still.
The day after they were taken away, the local police came and informed the women that Mushtaqeem and Naushad have escaped from the police custody. Shabana told TWJ, that on that very day she had the suspicion that maybe they have been killed.
The ‘Live encounter show’, a gun battle between UP police and two ‘dreaded criminals and history sheeters’ were televised in front of live media cameras in Harduaganj in Aligarh District on the 20th of September.
None of these families have television sets at homes and they had no knowledge of such an encounter. They were unaware that the police in that ‘encounter’ had claimed to kill two history sheeters, Mushtaqeem and Naushad. After the cold-blooded murders, police also crafted a story that the men were involved in the murders of Sadhu Ramdas and two other people. According to a news report in ABP, the police even claimed that these two ‘miscreants’ confessed their involvement in the said murders just before dying.
On either 21st or 22nd September (since the distressed women are unable to recollect the exact date) the police again visited their homes and informed them that Mushtaqeem and Naushad were injured and they have been admitted in Malkhan Singh Hospital.
The police gave them 100 INR for conveyance. Heena and Shabana went to the hospital only to find their children’s dead bodies being dumped in the morgue of the hospital. Shabana recalled tearfully, “the bodies were battered and injured. Their faces were swollen. There were bloodstains on their faces.”
Later, the police coerced Shabana and later Shaheen and Rafeeqan, to submit thumb impressions on blank papers. They police came in later and ransacked their house and took away identity documents like Aadhar cards, Bank statements, and Mushtaqeem’s Nikahnaama. The family members are now devoid of any identity card. Both Shabana and Shaheen confirmed that the police had neither given them the Post Mortem reports nor the copy of the FIRs.
Reports indicate that Salman is lodged in Aligarh jail under judicial custody, while Nafis has been kept in police custody in Atroli police station. Shabana and Shaheen both told TWJ, that since the ‘encounter’ the police have been threatening and intimidating them. These women were taken a few times to Atroli police station where the station officer threatened them that they must not file any case otherwise they will kill Salman and Nafis too.
On 22nd September, while these women were detained in the police station and were being heckled, Maria Alam, a local social activist went to the police station to intervene. According to Maria, the station officer of the police station, Pravesh Rana hurled abuses at her and called local villagers and threatened to kill her inside the station. Her car keys were snatched and she had to escape from the station for safety. Maria told TWJ that she has lodged a written complaint with Superintend of Police (City), Aligarh against the highhandedness and intimidation by Pravesh Rana.
Similar incidents happened on the 27th of September with a fact-finding team that included members of an organization United Against Hate, some journalists, social activists and current and former Presidents of Aligarh Muslim University Students Union Faizul Hasan and Maskhur Usmani.
After speaking extensively to the family, recording their statement and speaking to the neighbours, the team had moved to the police station to speak to the station officer and demand clarification for the various allegations that were leveled against the police by the family.
Khalid Saifi, a Delhi based member of United Against Hate, who was present in the fact-finding team told TWJ that, “Inspector Pravesh Rana was very hostile right from the beginning. He did not let us enter the police station but made us sit in the outside compound. He was dodging every question and said the information is all with the Nodal officer and he is not aware of it. However, he maintained these people have no address proof or identity and the slain boys were criminals. He said there are cases lodged against them in various police stations although he could not specify which one. He made statements like there are criminals lodged in various jails of UP and if one does a DNA test, their criminal connections will be clear.”
In the middle of the conversation, Rana got a phone call, said Khalid Saifi. He told someone, ‘Yes they are sitting here.’ In five minutes we saw around twenty men with saffron scarves enter the police station. They said they were from Bajrang Dal and started hurling abuses and said, “those were criminals and were therefore killed, whoever supports them will also be killed.” “Sensing trouble we left the police station,” added Khalid, “but on our way out we say more people in trolleys and tractors with saffron scarves going towards the police station. It was clear that the Inspector had called them and probably wanted them to thrash us.”
After the team left, Shabana and Shaheen also left Atroli with some social activists to meet media and other state administrations and approached lawyers who can fight their cases. The Bajrang Dal coerced Heena who had stayed back to file an FIR against Faizul and Mashkur from the fact-finding team and claimed that they have kidnapped the two women. However, next day Shaheen and Shabana filed a petition in the Allahabad High Court denying any of these charges and rather alleging harassment by the police.
On the 30th of September, the members of the fact-finding team along with Shabana and Shaheen addressed the media in the Press Club of Delhi and described the continuous torture they have faced in the hands of UP police and that their sons were innocent.
In the coming week, these women will also approach the National Human Rights Commission as well as the Supreme Court to demand justice for their slain sons.