On April 7 2015, five people accused in the murder of two policemen were killed in an encounter in Aler, Nalgonda after the police allegedly shot all of them in ‘self-defence’. Like most cases of police encounters, this too remain shrouded in mystery and a year later, the families’ questions remain unanswered; their pleas unheard. In the third of the four-part series, Raqib Hameed Naik speaks to Ishrat Banoo, wife of deceased Mohammed Haneef.
Kaladera (Hyderabad): As you enter the single-room rented accommodation of Ishrat Banoo, 32, the wife of deceased Dr Mohammed Haneef in Kaladera locality of Mushirabad, Hyderabad, a foul smell coming from a nearby slaughter house welcomes you.
“Please cope with this smell. Actually, renting room here is little cheap that’s why we have to get used to this smell,” says Ishrat.
Life wasn’t this hard five years ago, when her husband, a Unani doctor by profession used to run a clinic in Warisguda, Hyderabad. The lives of Ishrat, Haneef and her children turned upside down on July 11th 2010, when around a dozen policemen arrived in plain clothes and sport shoes in his clinic in the wee hours of morning, while he was examining a patient and whisked him away in a car.
Ishrat was then pregnant with her third child, Abdul Rehman, who is now five. A lady who was working as sweeper in the clinic came rushing to her rented accommodation, then a furnished space in Warisguda, and informed her about Dr. Haneef being picked by sleuths.
Not knowing from which police station or police agency they were, as they came in plain clothes, she searched for her husband in almost every police station in Hyderabad.
Even as she was busy finding out her husband’s location, three days later there came a news that her husband was produced in Nampally court in Hyderabad city on charges of aiding and abetting Mohammed Viqaruddin Ahmed, the name which she probably had never heard before, who was alleged to be responsible for killing policemen.
Later, he was also charged by Police with the conspiracy to kill the ex-Chief Minister of Gujarat and the incumbent Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi.
“I was pregnant with my 3rd child. I needed rest but police made me run from pillar to post to know whereabouts of my husband and then the false charges on him made my life more miserable as there was nobody who could take care of me,” recalls Ishrat.
Reviewing the day of Encounter
On Tuesday, April 7, 2015, the day of encounter, Ishrat had just reached home after dropping her three children to a local school. As she was about to step inside, some news reporters who lived nearby in the locality informed her about the death of her husband in an encounter.
“I was shocked .I didn’t believe them. I called my lawyer who also said the same thing. I couldn’t accept the fact that this could happen to him,” she says.
The following day, she went to collect her husband’s dead body from mortuary in Warangal, she claims that she was initially denied his body and made to sit under the sun for hours before being handed over the body. “It was like, they wanted to bury him there in Warangal themselves,” claims Ishrat.
“His body was riddled with bullets. There was no part of his body which was left without an injury. He had rashes over his right leg and there were severe burn marks as he was given electric shocks. He was killed in a gruesome way,” says Ishrat amid inconsolable crying.
The Inquest Panchnama, which is conducted on suspicious killings under section 174 of CrPC by nearest magistrate in presence of two or more witnesses, stated that Dr. Mohammed Haneef received a dozen bullet injuries, one on left ear, one on right side of jaw, two on left side of shoulder, three bullets on left shoulder muscles, one on right shoulder muscle, one on left thigh, one on left knee and two bullets on left hip.
Haneef-The last meeting, the last message
Ishrat remembers her husband as a soft-spoken person who was always ready to render his services free of cost in any humanitarian crisis either it to help Muslim or non Muslim. After the horrible Gujarat riots in 2002, he had volunteered for providing medical relief to victims at Shah Alam relief camp in Ahmedabad and worked there for around four months treating patients with injuries.
In September 2014, Ishrat met her husband for the last time in Cherlapally Prison after which he was shifted to other prison in Ahmadabad as he was also charged by police in a case pertaining to conspiracy of killing Narendra Modi.
While recalling her last meeting, she said, “When I used to meet him I used to cry seeing his condition. That day when I was crying, he said me that, Ishrat, Inshallah I will be out on bail in two months as my case is nearing its end. Now you need not to worry, our bad days will be over.”
Eight days after her meeting, he was taken to Gujarat for trail and kept there for six months.
On March 9 2015, he was brought back to Cherlapally prison from Gujarat and then shifted to Warangal Prison on March 11.
While retrieving an incident in the court during the trial, she said that Viqaruddin had requested the trial judge during one of the hearing to release all the youths as all allegations were on him and they had no connection with him and they were being falsely implicated in the case.
Days before the encounter, Haneef had asked Syed Amjad’s father who used to meet his son frequently in the Jail to convey a message to her wife that he didn’t know why he was kept in Warangal prison and emphasized that there was danger to his life.
“He feared for his life as the Policemen used to bring them from some forest. He had asked me to meet our lawyer and file a petition seeking his transfer to Cherlapally Prison,” she says.
His lawyer, Advocate Saifuallah Qadri filed petition in the court and April 7 was fixed for hearing, the day on which he was gunned down along with four other under trials.
Fight for survival
Before arrest of Dr Haneef, he and his wife Ishrat along with their two kids used to live a comfortable life like any other middle class family in urban India.
After his arrest, his family was exposed to worst vulnerabilities of life, as they suddenly found themselves in an atmosphere in which they had never lived before.
“None of my relative came forward to help me. In Warisguda the room rent was quite high which forced me to shift my kids in a cheaper locality in Kaladera,” says Ishrat.
Some months after giving birth to her 3rd child, she started working as Tailor to feed her kids.
“Everything came on my shoulders, the responsibility of my children’s education, paying the room rent, buying groceries everything.
What I am enduring, God shouldn’t even let our enemies suffer like this,” she says amid tears.
The youngest kid of Ishrat, Abdul Rehman, 5 often asks his mother about his father’s return, not knowing the tragedy which has befallen the family.
“He was born while his father was in Jail. He hasn’t spent even a day with his father. You tell, what should I reply to his question? I can’t tell him that his father won’t ever come home again.”
Ishrat finds difficulty in paying the rent of Rs 3000 for the rented room and the school fees of her kids. It is the large-heartedness of her the school teachers who often come forward to pay the school fee as the children are very good in studies.
Struggle for Justice
Like the case of Mohammed Viqaruddin and Syed Amjad, the case of Dr. Haneef is also waiting to get a single hearing since last year.
“They orphaned my children and took away the shadow of their father. Government and court should have intervened seeing the gravity of the case but they didn’t. I think they aren’t interested to give us justice,” she says.
Since last six years, says Ishrat, they were struggling for his release and when he was going to be released, he was brutally killed in a staged encounter.
“I and my children were living in poverty for last six years. I let my kids curse the killer policemen,” she says.
While accusing the government of acting a mute spectator, she says, “Government is ignoring the case. They are not doing anything to nab the culprits.”
“They not only took my husband but also our sole bread winner. Who will take care of my children now?”
Ishrat has now put all her hopes on the compensation, which she can get only if the case gets regular hearing in court and order is passed on her side, but the present situation predicts an uncertain future as to when the case will be heard in the court.
“Whatever they do, I will fight for justice for my children, “she adds.