Judicial Probe, Stopping Harassment of Innocents and Arrest of Abandoned Bike Owners: Fact Finding by AIPF demands
A fact finding study conducted byAll India People’s Forum (AIPF)has demanded a judicial inquiry and close monitoring of the investigation of the violence that erupted at Kasganj, Uttar Pradesh. A report released by United Against Hate in Delhi on Monday showed that Muslims in Kasganj protected temples and property and alleges that the police investigation so far appears biased
A new fact-finding report into the sectarian violence in Kasganj has accused the local police of being biased against members of the Muslim community during the ongoing investigation into the sectarian clashes which ended up in the death of Chandan Gupta on January 26.
“The way the police investigation is going on also reflects clear bias and prejudice and that is acting as a deterrent for people to come forward and lodge individual cases of assault and damage,” the report, Trail of Engineered Hate and Violence: Findings from a visit to Kasganj, released on Monday, says.
The investigation further notes that the first FIR (59/2018) in the wake of the clashes on Jan 26 names all Muslims—Nasiruddin, Akram, Akshat Khan and Taufiq. “But not a single Hindu was named in the FIR, although the report mentions both communities were involved in the clash,” it adds.
The fact-finding team, under the banner of United Against Hate, from Lucknow and Delhi visited Kasganj on February 2. Former Uttar Pradesh Police IG SR Darapuri, social activist Rakhi Sehgal, former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) President Mohit Pandey and United Against Hate members were part of the team among others.
Besides two mosques, the report highlighted that all 27 business establishments that were set on fire belonged to Muslims. “No temple or Hindu property has been damaged,” it says.
“In fact, the Chamunda Temple, located in a Muslim-dominated area, was protected by Muslims of the area. There is an HP gas agency located behind the Chamunda Temple, and the Muslims protected that too,” the nine-page document adds.
“Despite Muslim-owned establishments being in the line of fire of rampaging mobs, there was no police presence in predominantly Hindu localities. On the other hand, cops are manning Muslim neighbourhoods day in, day out,” the report says.
The fact finding team comprised of comprising senior journalists and activists John Dayal and Kiran Shaheen, activist Leena Dabiru, AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan, Kisan Mahasabha Vice-President Prem Singh Gehlawat (all of whom are members of the Central Campaign Team of the AIPF) as well as student activists from AISA, JNU – Vijay Kumar and Tabrez Ahmad.
Though it started on February 6, it was interrupted on February 7 around noon after police waylaid the team near the Kasganj District Jail, accused it of violating Section 144, detained it in a Mahila Police Thana for about an hour and then escorted it out of the district. After this, the team also visited Aligarh and met Akram, who lost an eye in the mob attack, and Chhotan, who lies unconscious since January 28, 2018 in JN Medical College Hospital Aligarh.
Questions around Chandan Gupta’s murder
The report by the fact finding team has highlighted several questions that surrounded Chandan Gupta’s death. The report mentions that as per eye witness accounts there was no blood around the spot where his body was found. The eyewitnesses said that on January 26, as ABVP’s Sankalp mob was passing through the tehsil, wielding guns and weapons, parents of girl students of the GGIC school, fearing their children’s safety started pelting stones. It highlighted that the parents were from different communities. About the arrests of the accused, the report said, “Salim and two of his brothers, owners of the Barki Cloth Shop are accused of Chandan Gupta’s murder – only Salim has yet been arrested. But many questions surround this allegation also.”
Noting some discrepancies in the police version of the incident, the report added, “Police claim that the bullets that killed Chandan were fired from Salim’s balcony or rooftop – but the distance from Salim’s house and the spot where Chandan’s body was found makes that difficult to believe. Moreover, the manner in which the bullets reportedly entered Chandan’s body also make it unlikely that the bullets were fired from a rooftop so far away.”
The fact finding team also reported that the eye-witnesses said that the police picked up and brandished something in Salim’s house claiming it was a ‘US made gun’ that was used to shoot Chandan Gupta. The supposed gun turned out to be a toy lighter. This happened in the presence of journalists. It added that though the two licenced guns belonging to Salim were also taken from his house, but the bullets found in Chandan reportedly may not match these guns, which are 12-bore guns. Since then, the police has also reportedly claimed that Chandan was killed with a desi charra/kata. However, the team believed that such a gun would lack the power top shoot from a distance and also questioned, “Why would a man who owned two licenced guns choose to use a less powerful desi katta instead?”
The case of Chhotan
It mentions the case of Chhotan, a 45 year old labourer battling death in Aligarh Hospital. He had left his home in GanjDundwara near Kasganj on January 28, 2018 on his cycle for his daily work of selling chicken. He has suffered head injury and had to be admitted to JN Medical College.
Though an FIR has been filed, the fact finding team asked, “What efforts and progress have the police made to find the perpetrators of this murderous attack on Chhotan – a defenseless labourer who was not part of any procession or riot, and whose only fault that he is a poor Muslim who needed to earn a living? What has the District Administration and Government of Uttar Pradesh done to compensate Chhotan and his family, for whom survival as well as medical care has been dependant on charity since the sole earning member lies unconscious and, even if he survives, is unlikely to be fit for work for several months?
Harassment of Innocent
The report draws attention to the harassment of innocent people including juveniles who have been picked up in the aftermath of the incident. It visited the Kasganj District Jail and reported that both the jailer and district administration refused for a meeting with prisoners.
The team met several Hindu and Muslim families whose relatives appear to have been jailed in spite of being completely innocent and uninvolved in the violence. Here is a brief record of the team’s interaction with these families:
- Anuj Tomar: Alok Timar, Anuj Tomar’s brother said that his brother Anuj was picked up from near his home in Canara Bank lane, Luvkush Nagar, Kasganj, in the afternoon of January 27 2018, when he had stepped out to buy medicine for their ailing father. He was told by cops stationed there that all shops were closed so he should return. As he turned back, some police cars drove up and picked him up. He was taken away without informing his family. The FIR where the SHO Ripudaman Singh is the complainant, claims that Anuj was identified and arrested on 27 January at 11.40 am where he along with a mob had indulged in arson and vandalism of a furniture shop at AmapurAdda.
- Raj Singh Yadav: Rajvir Singh, father of Raj Singh told the team that his son Raj is a compounder at Dr Naveen Gaur’s clinic. On January 27 he and another compounder there were closing the shutters of the clinic after being warned that it would not be safe to keep it open, when the police came and arrested both.
- Imran Khan: Firoz, father of Imran Khan, who runs a meat shop and hotel at BilramGate,told the team that he was picked up by police on the street. Firoz is a labourer in Gujarat, and has rushed home because of this calamity. Firoz says Imran neither participated in the flag hoisting event at Abdul Hamid Chowk nor in any violence whatsoever.
- Nasiruddin ‘Chawal Vale’: Mahiru and Mehak, two young girls told the team that their 65 year old father Nasiruddin ‘Chawal vale’ was at his rice shop when he was picked up by the police on January 28 2018. Their 16-year-old brother who had been having a bath, was made to dress and was also taken away on the pretext of questioning. Both have been booked under Sections 302 and 307 among others, and jailed. It appears that the 16-year-old has also been kept in the adult jail in violation of the JJ Act, since we noted at the District Jail that the enclosure for Juveniles was locked and reportedly had no occupants. Their mother has been paralysed for the past 4 months and since the arrest, has been unconscious.
- One rickshaw puller Shamshad has also been falsely accused – eyewitnesses aver that if the CCTV cameras outside St Joseph’s School for 26 January are checked, he can be seen dropping kids off at the school for the Republic Day celebrations.
- One youth – tempo driver Mohsin - picked up from a mosque was reportedly beaten up by some prisoners in the jail.
A case of Abandoned Bikes:
The report quotes Rajvir Singh, father of Raj Singh who is languishing in jail, “The ABVP-Sankalp men rode motorbikes in the ‘TirangaYatra’ and came and demanded that the Muslims hoisting the tricolour at Abdul Hamid Chowk must also hoist the saffron flag. The Muslims refused and there was a clash, in which the ABVP mob (which at that point did not have guns) was forced to beat a retreat: several of whom abandoned dozens of motorbikes (reportedly around 60) which are now at the police station. The same people later met BJP leaders and regrouped, armed themselves with guns and sticks, and rode to the tehsil where Chandan’s body was found”
The report questioned, “Why has the police not yet arrested even one of the men who own those abandoned motorbikes? Those men were surely part of the violent mob who have destroyed our Kasganj and its peace, and if these men are caught they can identify their other companions also. Instead, the police is just picking up innocents.”
The team said that finding the riders of the abandoned bikes may be key to find the actual perpetrators of the crime.
Police Bias alleged in Arrests:
The team reported that there were clear instances of caste and communal bias on part of the police, youth were being indiscriminately arrested by the police, and the religious and caste identity of the youth determined which sections they would be booked under. ‘LRs’ (LodaRajputs) and other upper caste Hindus would generally be booked under Section 151 and released on bail; OBCs and Dalits would be booked under Sections 147, 148, 149, 336, 436, 427, 34 IPC and Section 7 of the UAPA; and Muslims would, in addition to the above sections, also have Sections 307 (attempt to murder) and in some cases 302 (murder) booked against them.
The team asked, “When there is no evidence whatsoever of any pre-planned murderous intent and organized violence on part of Muslims why are they being booked for the murder of Chandan Gupta and attempted murder of others? Akram lost an eye, Naushad got a bullet in his thigh, Chhotan survived a murderous attack – yet no one has been booked on attempt to murder charges for these attacks – why?
The team was given a partial list of 30 properties (shops, homes, mosques) that were subjected to arson, vandalism, and loot; there are reportedly at least 15 more. We were told that in most of these cases, the police is refusing to file FIRs. Note that Hindus and Muslims alike told us that NOT A SINGLE HINDU SHOP OR TEMPLE was subjected to any arson or any violence whatsoever.
At least three mosques have been burned and looted. On the morning of 6 February also, a mosque at GanjDundwara was burnt down – the incident is reported in local papers of 7 February 2018.
Police Bias- And a Heart-Warming Friendship
The team witnessed a startling case of police bias about two friends Khalid and Pradeep, both from Badayun. Their advocate Hasin Ahmad told the team that Khalid (son of Munnan Khan) and Pradeep (son of Chaturi), both from Shahbazpur, thana Sahawasan, district Badayun, were riding through Kasganj on a scooter, going to see Khalid’s grandmother at BilramKasba. They were stopped by the police. Khalid (FIR number 59/2018) was booked under sections 307, as well as 147, 148, 149, 336, 436, 427, 34 IPC and Section 7 of the UAPA; while Pradeep was booked under 151 CrPC only and offered to be released on bail. Pradeep, however, refused to accept the release and opted to go to jail with his friend Khalid.
The team highlighted many cases of Hindu Muslim solidarity despite the communal tension
Apart from the demand for judicial enquiry, the team has objected to the arrests of innocents on a mass scale without any credible evidence. It has asked for compensation for families of injured. It also demanded that the owners of the bikes stationed at Abdul Hamid Chowk as well as ABVP Sankalp men who were visibly brandishing weapons in video footage, must be arrested and booked for masterminding the violence. BJP leaders including the MP of Kasganj who made inflammatory speeches must also be arrested and booked without delay. It said that a team of juvenile justice board members as well as social activists and lawyers must be allowed to meet all those jailed without delay, so that it can be verified whether any juvenile is in the adult jail; and whether any prisoner has been attacked by any other prisoner.