Twenty-eight-year old Akhlaq was found seriously injured, with one arm severed and the other badly bruised, besides multiple injuries on his body, in Haryana’s Panipat district on the morning of 24 August.
The Quint spoke to his family, the police and the family he lodged his case against and found conflicting versions regarding what transpired.
While Akhlaq’s elder brother, 38-year-old Ikram claims that he was targeted due to his identity after he requested for water from a home around 2:00 am in the morning, the police has alleged that Akhlaq was confronted by the family after he was caught sexually assaulting their seven-year-old child in a nearby park.
This reporter also learnt that there are not one, but two FIRs registered on 7 September regarding what happened on 24 August. We bring you both versions of what happened, the police’s version, then Akhlaq’s and then the statement of the family of the minor boy.
The Police’s Version: How 2 FIRs Were Filed
After speaking to four station house officers (SHO) who kept saying the case was not in their jurisdiction, this reporter finally got through Chandni Bagh police station SHO Inspector Ankit Nandal who confirmed that he was investigating both FIRs.
Explaining the alleged sequence of events, he said, “On 24 August night, Akhlaq tried to enter a home from the back entrance. The family was sleeping in the verandah. There was a child who was seven years old, who he picked and left. Their home was adjacent to the railway line. The moment they realised that he was not there, they began searching for him. While doing so they reached a park close by in Kishanpura, where they heard a child making sounds. This is when they saw Akhlaq and that child barely had any clothes on them. They then confronted Akhlaq, asked him questions and beat him up at the park itself.”
Akhlaq then ran away to the railway track, and the family took their son and brought him back home, he said.
“The next day the railway police got to know that there was a man who was lying on the line and his hand was severed. They then hospitalised him. For days, due to his injuries, he was unfit to register a complaint. Then on 7 September an FIR was registered on his complaint,” Nandal said.
So while Akhlaq’s complaint was registered by the railway police under Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 34 (common intention) of the IPC by Government Railway Police (GRP) Ambala Cantt, a few hours earlier on the same day an FIR had been registered against Akhlaq at the Chandni Bagh police station in Panipat under Section 6 (punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault), Section 18 (punishment for attempt to commit an offence) of the POCSO Act and Section 323 of the IPC. After competing versions and the cross FIR, the case with the railways was also transferred to Chandni Bagh police station.
When asked why the child’s family had waited as many days, Nandal said, “The boy’s family were reluctant to register an FIR as this is about an 8-year-old child. They did not want to get the child embroiled in the matter of courts and the police station at such a young age. There is also the issue of facing embarrassment in their community. They felt the need to file an FIR after the policemen at the GRP started inquiring with them.”
Regarding what will happened ahead, he said, “See we have registered FIRs for both versions of what happened. However preliminary investigation suggests that the hand was cut by the wheels of the train. We are in the process of taking medical opinions, COVID-19 has slowed the process but we are trying to do it soon.”
Regarding Akhlaq allegations of being attacked, the policeman said, “Why would a man go to someone’s house at 2:00 am to get water? Also why would they cut his hand when there is no history of enmity? The man is not from here. The child has also given a statement in front of the magistrate. He said that Akhlaq had pushed his private parts into his mouth in an area close to railway station,” Nandal agreed that Akhlaq was beaten up by the family when he was found with their child, but not in the context he claims.
Akhlaq’s Brother Insists ‘Kattar Hindus’ Targeted Brother
While changing Akhlaq’s bandages and feeding him, Akhlaq’s 38-year-old brother Ikram spoke to The Quint from their home in Nanauta town of UP’s Saharanpur district, the same home that Ikram says his brother left to find work on 23 August. “There is not one part of his body that has been spared,” Ikram says.
Ikram confirmed that he met the family of the child in Panipat, who explained to him what had happened on the spot. “They told me that they found their son with my brother, and that the child was seen under him.” He, however, denies the allegations of his brother sexually assaulting a child and does not believe them.
He says his younger Akhlaq had left for Panipat via bus on 23 August morning. While Akhlaq was a barber back home, there was no work on account of the pandemic. “Our work, as I am also a barber, has been affected horribly. People are most afraid to come close to people. He did not know anyone there but there is more work there than here,” he explains, adding that his father Fakira and mother Hamia also did no work. Ikram is member of the All India Jamaat E Salmani.
He reached by 7:00 pm and found a place in a park in Panipat’s Kishanpura area to spend the night.
A few hours later some men approached him and asked him his name. Upon knowing he was Muslim, they beat him up and left, his brother claims. “After they left, Akhlaq got up and sat at another end of the park. He was trying to ensure he was not seen,” he says.
Considering how Akhlaq was already badly beaten and bruised, how would he then be able to go to someone’s home and take a child away, he asks.
When asked why this first assault which made it hard for him to walk was not mentioned in the FIR accessed by The Quint, Ikram said. “They’ve written whatever they wanted and did not listen to us at all. The policemen have misbehaved with me, abused me too.”
Coming back to what happened that night, he said that around 2:00 am in the morning his brother felt thirsty and went to a home close to the tracks asking for water. This is when he allegedly learnt that the house he had gone to was the one with the same people who had beaten him up hours ago. “Upon recognising him, they pulled my brother in and started beating him up. They hit him with bricks as well. While doing this they saw 786 tattooed on his hand and then cut his arm elbow down with a chainsaw. They were kattar (orthodox) Hindus who do not want Muslims to live in Hindustan anymore.”
786 is a number which is used as a metonym for the Arabic phrase Bismillah, meaning, in the name of Allah.
The next morning he was spotted next to the tracks, taken to a hospital in Panipat from where he was referred to BD Sharma Institute of Medical Sciences. His discharge slip from 8 September reads ‘traumatic amputation below elbow’ in front of ‘diagnosis’.
While he nurses his brother back to health, Ikram says he is not going to lie low.
“I have been to the site several times, spoken to the policemen who were hostile with me and also went to the spot in the park where my brother was hit with bricks. I saw a brick with blood on it. There is no doubt in my mind that my brother was attacked for being Muslim. I will not sit back till we are heard well and loud,” he says.
What the Minor’s Family Said in the FIR
While Ikram is hell bent on seeking justice, so is the family of the boy.
In the statement in the FIR accessed by The Quint, the eight-year-old boy's uncle Vishal* (name changed to protect identity), explained that he, his wife and their eight-year-old nephew were sleeping in the verandah. The gate, which faced the railway track was unlocked but closed. "Around 1:00 am I got up to take a leak, when I returned I saw that the boy was not there and the door was open. I woke the neighbours and family members and everyone began searching for the boy. We spotted a young man and then saw that he had pushed the child to the floor and was on him; the minor boy was without clothes."
Speaking about what followed, he said, "We were furious, asked him his name and slapped him. He told us his name was Aqhlaq and ran away to the side of the railway line. Ever since I have been looking for him."
The boy's mouth was swollen and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment. When the FIR was registered, Singh also submitted the medical certificate of the boy from his visit to the hospital on 27 August. He had four injuries in total.
The Quint has reached out to the family directly and will update the story if and when they respond.
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)