After the video of a 72-year-old Muslim man, Abdul Samad Saifi, being brutally thrashed and his beard cut off in Ghaziabad’s Loni went viral, three different versions of what had happened with him have emerged.
While Saifi has claimed that he was abducted by an auto driver and others where he was also forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram”, the Ghaziabad Police have a different story to tell. The police have said that while the crime against him was heinous, the allegation of him being made to chant slogans is untrue. The fact that the police has arrested one Muslim, of the three others, has also raised questions on it being a communally motivated hate crime.
There is also a third version. This reporter spoke to the brother of the only Muslim man, Faisal, who has been arrested. Faisal said that his brother was being trapped in the case as he had only gone to the spot to help Saifi escape his attackers.
Meanwhile, the incident has sparked a political war of words between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Opposition. Accusing Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of "not speaking the truth", UP CM Yogi Adityanath said, “The first lesson of Lord Shri Ram is – 'Speak the truth' – which you have never done in (your) life. You should be ashamed that even after telling the truth by the police, you are spreading poison in society. They are shaming humanity in the greed of power. Stop humiliating, defaming the people of Uttar Pradesh.”
More about the three versions:
What Did Saifi Tell the Media?
Saifi, while narrating his ordeal, said that he was approached by an auto driver who offered to drop him home. “Chacha miyan kahaan jaoge, aao betho mein chhod doonga aapko (Uncle, where do you have to go? Come, I will drop you),” the accused had said.
After he sat in the auto, he was beaten up by the men. They covered his face and took him to a house, where the video was recorded. Saifi can be seen pleading to the accused. The five men who abducted him kicked him ruthlessly, beat him up, put a pistol to his head, forced him to chant “Jai Shri Ram”, cut off his beard, made him see videos of other Muslims being attacked and boasted that they had killed many belonging to his community before.
The Quint spoke to Asif, Saifi’s relative, who he had come to Loni to meet the victim, Saifi’s son Babboo, two eyewitnesses to whom Saifi had narrated the incident as soon as he returned home, and Loni Samajwadi Party (SP) member Ummed Pahalwan Idrisi, who the locals had confided in after the incident, to reconstruct what happened.
The original complaint in the FIR, as mentioned in our earlier story, does not mention several allegations, including the instance of him being made to chant “Jai Shri Ram”. However, while The Quint has been unable to reach out to Saifi and Babboo for their versions, Babbu told The Times of India, “The entire police narrative is concocted.”
He added, “The police statement that Muslims were involved in the assault is false too. The beard is a (part of) a Muslim’s identity and no Muslim will cut it off forcibly. Muslim youths have been framed to give it a false narrative.”
When asked about being forced to chant the slogan, he said what choice would his father have when being surrounded by men thrashing and abusing him. “You can make him say anything,” he said.
What Has UP Police Found in Their Investigation?
On the evening of 5 June, Deputy Superintendent of Police and Circle Officer Loni, Atul Kumar Sonker, had told this reporter that he was yet to meet the accused. At that time, only the main accused, Parvesh Gujjar, had been rounded up. However, as the investigation developed, the UP Police, according to their latest statement, went on to say, “Through social media, we can see some men beat up an older man. Upon investigation, we got to know that the man (Saifi) had come to UP’s Loni area for some work on 5 June, after which he got onto a bike and went to Gujjar’s home (the main accused) in Hajipur Bheta.”
The fact that he went to the house – on his own – where the crime had been committed against him is in direct contrast to what Saifi has told the media till now.
Continuing with the police statement, the Ghaziabad Police said that Saifi sells amulets (tabeez) to people and had sold the same to Gujjar, whom he already knew. After this, Gujjar’s wife had a miscarriage and his father had an accident. As a result, he was angry with Saifi.
“Gujjar called Saifi home and started beating him up out of anger. Most of the men involved have been tracked till now. Other than him, Kallu Gujjar and Adil have also been arrested. More arrests will follow,” the police said.
When The Quint reached out to Sonker regarding refuting claims of forcing the man to chant slogans, he said, “He wasn't forced (to chant “Jai Shri Ram”). The accused are from both communities, so such an angle has high chances of being ruled out. The reason why he was beaten up is mentioned in our statement. The accused felt that the tabeez (amulets) had adverse effects. We have confirmed from various sources and there is no such sloganeering angle. I wouldn't comment on what the victim is claiming and why he is claiming.”
While the police is relying on one of the accused (Adil) being Muslim to find "high chances" of "ruling out" any such angle, this reporter reached out to Adil’s brother who claimed he was innocent and being trapped in the case.
What is Accused Adil’s Brother Claiming?
In this third version, Faisal told this reporter that Adil went to the spot to rescue Saifi.
“Saifi had gone to the spot on his own, he was not abducted. The elderly man is lying that he was taken their without his consent. He had gone to Parvesh Gujjar’s home before as well. This is where a conversation about his amulets happened, and they started beating him up mercilessly,” Faisal, Adil’s elder brother, who owns a gym in the area explained.
He says this issue was about amulets and not as much a Hindu-Muslim issue.
Narrating what happened after, Faisal said, “After Saifi was detained; Intizaar, who the main accused knew and is currently absconding, had called some Muslim boys, including Adil, and told them that the old man was being detained by Gujjar. Of the six to seven men who went to the spot, two are Hajis. They went to the spot and requested Gujjar to let him go and brought Saifi out,” Faisal claims.
Questioning the narrative of the UP Police, Faisal asks why several Muslims would come together and cut off the beard of another Muslim man.
“Kallu, Parvesh, and Poli are involved in the incident, and there is one more accused involved in the incident,” Faisal said.
Defending his brother, he said, “Adil is my younger brother. He has his own copper factory. We are counted amongst the respectable families in the area, and the entire community respects us. After the incident, my brother told me that a Muslim was beaten up, I told him he did a good job but also cautioned him to not get involved in such matters as it could turn political. The man then went back to his residence, where a leader found him and all this happened.” Faisal did not name any leader when asked who he was talking about.
However, this claim of some Muslim men saving his life, is an allegation we have tried to corroborate with the victim. Faisal said, “We met Saifi as well, he was with us. Even during the investigation he met us. He told us he was beaten up and that my brother was also being threatened.” Faisal added that Parvesh Gujjar is the one who is taking the names of the Muslims who had come to save the man.
“After being thrashed, these boys got him out and dropped him home. Leaders should not have gotten involved, or they should have ensured that the complaint was against named accused. We are respected people in the community,” Faisal reiterated.