Human right violations at its worst during Moradabad police-Muslim clash

By Subhashini Ali,

Moradabad: In recent weeks, reports have been circulating on the Internet about the post-July 6th situation in rural areas adjacent to Moradabad city, in which serious violations of the rule of law human rights have taken place. A CPI (M) delegation led by Subhashini Ali, Member, CC, visited the affected villages on the 2nd November and spoke to dozens of affected people.

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The background to the events of 6th July is an incident of the kind that occurs in hundreds of villages and urban areas every day: two Muslim families who are neighbours in Bagha village have been engaged in a long-standing dispute over various petty matters. In the first week of July, Yusuf, son of Kamrul, is alleged to have misbehaved with his neighbor, Muslim’s mother and Muslim is alleged to have misbehaved with Yusuf’s sister. Meanwhile Kamrul complained to the police against Muslim.

Muslim’s family was convinced by the village Pradhan not to go to the police and that the matter would be sorted out amicably ‘within the village’. The result was that the police came looking for Muslim early in the morning of the 6th. Before they entered his house, all the male members had to run away and only his young sister, Noorjahan (about 14 years old) remained. They ransacked the house and abused her (there is photographic evidence of this) and, apparently, threw a copy of the Koran on the floor.

Rehan in Safdarjang Hospital

After they left, the terrorized young girl ran into the village and told everyone about what had happened. The news of ‘desecration’ of the Koran spread like wildfire through nearby villages which are heavily populated by Muslims. By 9.00 a.m. thousands of people started accumulating on the main road resulting in a massive road blockade.

The local police took the help of Muslim leaders of the area including Haji Atiq and Kamil (Pradhan of Dingarpur) and the road-block at Bagha village was soon cleared. By the time they returned to Thana at Mainethar they found that besides the large crowd, a jeep had been set onfire. Again with the help of local people, the crowd was dispersed.

Meanwhile, the District Magistrate, Raj Shekhar and DIG of Police, Ashok Kumar (large districts in UP have seen SSPs replaced by DIGs) had left Moradabad for the area and they had to stop at Dingarpur where a mob had collected. All these large villages are located off the main road and have taken on the attributes of small Kasbahs with large markets. As a result, there are always large crowds around the main road as people from a large catchment area come for their daily needs, for work and also to go to school and college. At Dingarpur too, the crowd was large and angry.

The DIG, in the belief that his personal intervention would restore peace; soon got out of his vehicle and went to talk to the people. At this point, quite inexplicably, the DM along with his large armed escort turned around and left the area, leaving the DIG quite alone in the middle of an angry mob. Apparently, the DIG did fire from his service revolver but the situation was out of control and he was badly beaten by members of the crowd. Soon PAC and Police re-enforcements arrived and he was taken to the hospital.

After this, it was the police that went berserk. They entered homes in Dingarpur village and beat men and women mercilessly and ransacked their homes. People were beaten and sent to jail with serious injuries. At least four minors suffered bullet injuries (one of them has since succumbed to them) and among the 38 persons still in jail there are at least three minors.

The first person we met was Haji Atiq, a prominent Congress worker of Moradabad, who belongs to Bagha village. His family runs two large schools in the area and enjoys considerable prestige. He told us that on the 6th morning, the Mainethar Kotwal requested him to come to Bagha to help pacify the huge crowds that had collected. Haji Atiq readily agreed. He says ruefully that his going there and requesting people to go back to their homes, accompanying the Police to Mainethar actually turned many people against him. He however, feels that he was doing his duty and has no regrets. What he does regret is the fact that he, his two brothers and brother-in-law (the former Pradhan of Manethar) have all been named in the FIR as persons who attacked the police and public property. He says that this has been done at the behest of the BSP Minister, Akbar Husain [his political rival] who is the MLA from the area.

Haji Atiq told us that the entire administration knows and appreciates the role that he played but has been unable to help him. He also told us that his Party leaders also have been of no help – Azharuddin the local MP and Rajya Sabha MP from Moradabad, Rashid Alvi, both belonging to the Congress. He was also unhappy that no Congress leader – not even Digvijay Singh, he said – had bothered to visit Moradabad since July.

We then went to Mainethar village where a large number of people were waiting for us. There is a CPI (M) branch here and the Secy. Is Zulfikar. The interesting point made by those present is that nothing happened in or around the village on the 6th. The Thana, however, bears the village name and is at a distance from the village. When the Kotwal returned to the thana from Bagha it was surrounded by a mob and a police vehicle had been set on fire.

Not a single person from the village, however, was arrested from the scene. Many days later, more than 50 of them were named in two consecutive FIRs. There are many interesting aspects to these names. The first is that all of them are active supporters of the current Pradhan, Om Prakash. He was also present in the meeting and testified to this. He said that he had been meeting the police and the administration regularly in the last 6 months and his interventions have been successful in ensuring that no arrests have been made and the police until then have not raided any homes in the village. Many of those named in the FIRs had signed affidavits as to their whereabouts on the 6th July. Just to give a few examples – Haji Bhure was in Saudi Arabia performing Umra; his brother Rizwan, is severely handicapped with only one leg; Sabir was away in Ghaziabad painting the house of the former Station Officer (Police) who is now posted there.

According to the villagers, the entire list of accused was given to the police by a group of people who were supporting another candidate in the Panchayat elections.

Our last stop was Dingarpur, a village still shrouded in sorrow and seething with suppressed anger. The Pradhan Kamil’s house is one of the first as one turns into the village from the main road, so we went there and several people who wanted to speak to us, came there.

Kamil’s wife, Saimeen, is a brave and outspoken woman. She told us that her husband had been asked by the Manethar Kotwal to come to Bagha to help him pacify the crowd there. He went immediately and returned to Dingarpur in the Kotwal’s jeep. By the time they reached, the badly injured DIG had already been removed. Kamil talked to the people in the crowd many of whom were not from the village. When he felt he could do no more he went home. He had barely sat down to eat when more than 40 PAC constables entered his house and started beating him mercilessly. They also beat Saimeen who still has bad bruises on her legs. They did a lot of damage to the household – breaking beds, cupboards, dishes and setting fire to a motorcycle. Then they dragged Kamil away and sent him to jail in a very battered condition. He still has not been given bail along with the 37 others arrested. Saimeen told us that other people from the village who took shelter were also badly beaten and many were arrested.

Saimeen’s neighbor, Salma also met us. Her 15 year old son, Tauseef, who is in the XIth, got caught up in the turmoil. He along with 2 other minor boys from Asadpur and Bhikapur, both of whom are students, have all been sent to jail after having been badly beaten. When their lawyer made an application regarding their minor status, their school certificates were not accepted as proof of age in contravention of the law. Medical checkups too were denied. Instead a Civil Magistrate was sent to the jail to decide on their age and he certified them as being ‘Adults’.

As a result, these young boys have not been tried by a Juvenile Court and are being held with hardened criminals instead of at the Juvenile Home. Saimeen and Salma told us that 3 young boys – all minors – also received bullet wounds on the 6th July. None of them was given any medical attention by the administration and their families have been pauperized by their treatment. We could confirm the names of two, Ghulam Rabbani (15) and Mohd. Kamran Ali both still to recover from their injuries.

Rehan’s mother Nasreen

Our most heartbreaking encounter was with Nasreen. Her 14 year old son, Rehan, succumbed to his bullet injuries on the 19th of October. Someone brought his bleeding body and left it on the street outside Kamil’s house on the 6th evening. His father, Ahsan, rushed him to the Meerut Govt. Hospital where he was treated for sometime. Then he shifted him to Safdarjung Hospital but, when, he did not seem to be recovering, he brought him home about two months back. And on the 19th of October, his frail and battered body gave up the fight.

Nasreen said that they are very poor people. So poor that they could not afford to educate their only son, Rehan. His elder brother had died some years ago. On the 6th of July, he had gone to the market to buy soap when the bullet hit him. Her husband has lost whatever little he had in trying to save his child’s life. He had a meagre two bighas of land that he has sold. He is heavily in debt. He has no time to grieve but has to look for work, everyday.

Not a single FIR has been filed by any of the injured and beaten. Only Saimeen had the courage to give her statement to the police and civil administration, including the District Magistrate, it has not been converted into an FIR as should have been done in view of the fact that she has a medical certificate proving her injuries from the beating she suffered from the PAC constables.

All the other families, including Rehan’s parents, are too terrified to file reports against the police. Only those who know the history of the district since the horrific Eid-gah riot of 1980 can appreciate the extent of terror that the PAC uniform carried out in Muslim homes, especially among the women.

It was completely incomprehensible to us; however, the administration too had done nothing for those suffering from bullet injuries. Rehan’s long hospitalization and treatment at home was known to them but they did nothing. They were informed about his death but did not conduct a post-mortem. In fact, the family was encouraged to proceed in haste with the burial.

We could not, unfortunately, meet with the District Administration for an interesting reason. When they came to know about my planned visit, they informed the District Party that we would not be given ‘permission’ to enter any of the villages because this could create a ‘law and order’ problem. In view of this it was just not possible to make any appointments with senior members of the administration.

We did, however, hold a well-attended Press Conference after we got finished with our investigations. The local Hindi and Urdu papers gave excellent coverage for our statements. In the days after 6th July, the Media had been completely hostile to the villagers so it was only on the 3rd November that people in the area were made aware of what had happened that day.

The CPI (M) has decided to make efforts to see that FIR’s are registered and that the death of Rehan is investigated. The Party has also decided to make regular visits to the area so that further harassment
of the villagers can be stopped.