"How is it that ordinary boys from the area were arrested so soon after the Delhi riots, but the police have taken a year and a half only to identify three policemen who are on video?"
These are the words of Naeem, who is 24-year-old Faizan's elder brother, speaking about how the Delhi Police have identified three policemen who were allegedly responsible for thrashing his brother on 24 February 2020. Despite this development, Faizan's family and counsel are far from reassured. They find it hard to place faith in the ongoing investigation.
The police were caught on video thrashing Faizan and forcing him and four others to sing the national anthem. The other four men, who can be seen lying in pain with blood splattered all over them, survived the assault. Faizan died a few days later on 26 February. A case was registered under sections of murder, rioting, rioting while being armed with a deadly weapon and unlawful assembly, but the police are yet to file a charge sheet eighteen months after the incident.
Representing the family since the first day is advocate Vrinda Grover, who confirmed that she only learnt about this from the newspaper. She also said that the police were yet to file a comprehensive report before the High Court.
The family says that the series of events from the day that Faizan was taken into custody on 24 February, has shaken their belief in the police.
The Quint sent five queries to respond to these allegations to Delhi's Commissioner of Police Rakesh Asthana, the Delhi Police PRO Chinmoy Biswal as well as the Delhi Police Crime Branch ACP Rajesh Kumar (who submitted the last status report in the case to the Delhi High Court). We waited for a response, sent reminders. This copy will be updated as and when they respond.
Episode 1: Faizan's Family Saw Videos, After His Death
"Whenever I see a policeman, my blood boils," Faizan's mother, 60-year-old Kismatun, said.
The first was them seeing videos of Faizan being thrashed. "It was only after he died that we saw all the videos of the brutality. There was one, then another and then another.... Shocked by it, his brothers got angry and teared up. I could not believe my eyes. At least the other four have survived. Why did they have to hit my son so much?" Kismatun asked.
While this had already made the family angry, soon after the second episode transpired.
Episode 2: Police Tell Court Faizan Wanted to Come to the Police Station for Safety and Security
While Faizan's family claimed they went to get him from Jyoti Nagar police station on the same night as he was picked, the police are denying it.
Kismatun says she first went to GTB hospital with her son's photograph and then they went to the Jyoti Nagar police station. "The police officials confirmed he was there but did not hand over Faizan to me. On the other hand, they threatened me. They said they would not leave him and asked me to go. After waiting for four hours, I returned home," she claimed.
The police however have said that Faizan was 'reluctant to go' to his residence after being taken to GTB hospital as there was 'heavy communal tension'. The police claim that it was as per Faizan's desire that he was brought and kept at the police station 'for safety and security and given proper food, etc'. These are submissions made by the police in a status report filed in January 2021 with the Delhi HC.
The family does not buy this claim.
"Why would my son want to stay with the same policemen, the same men in uniform, who had beaten him up? Why would he feel safe and secure with them? This is a blatant lie."Faizan's mother, Kismatun.
More importantly, the MLC for Faizan at the GTB hospital clearly states that he needs to be further treated for Neuro and Ortho Surgery. "Both of which are medical departments critical to treating cerebral and bodily injuries resulting from blunt force impacts," their counsel said.
So instead of taking him for further treatment, the police brought him to the Jyoti Nagar police station again.
On 25 February night, when Faizan's condition deteriorated, Kismatun says the police asked them to take him. "They were probably worried he would die in their custody. By the time we brought him home, it was past midnight," she said.
Faizan returned with swollen limbs, black and blue injuries, his skin peeled and unable to move. The family used scissors to cut his clothes out. The next morning he was admitted to LNJP hospital, but died later that day.
According to the post-mortem report, the cause of death was noted as "cerebral injury associated with multiple blunt injuries".
Episode 3: Faizan's Mother Says Police Requested Her to Alter Statement
Soon after, the third episode transpired.
"Days after his death, the policemen called me to the Jyoti Nagar police station. They told me that I should say that they returned Faizan to us on 24 February and not post-midnight on 25 February. They said we could just say this to help them. I just howled and wept when they said that to me. I did not say a thing," Kismatun said.
The family believes they did this to save themselves from being implicated.
We asked the police to respond to this allegation but have not recieved a response yet.
The next event, which is the most recent one, is where the police allegedly tried to get the family to compromise.
Episode 4: When a Policeman Allegedly Came Knocking on Their Door
Narrating what happened, Nadeem alleged that a policeman paid them a visit.
"About five months ago, this police officer came to us. No one was at home. He asked for me and called me up. He said he was from the Bhajanpura police station and said if we needed help, we should reach out to him. The police official also asked us for our account details. I called our lawyer (Grover) immediately, she spoke to him directly and the police officer left. He never returned."
This is a also query we posed to the police but have not got a response so far.
The family believes there is a lot more to uncover in this investigation. The fact that this has taken eighteen months does not make them feel grateful. Naeem, who works as a tailor, says the family is expecting much more.
Speaking about the pace and nature of the investigation, Grover said, "The manner in which this is continuing does not inspire any confidence. The purpose appears to be to obfuscate, delay and drag the case. With the passage of time evidence will get lost, destroyed and erased, if it already has not."
Vrinda Grover: Other Than Videos, Probe Must Look Into What Happened at Police Station
The family has seen the two videos several times.
In the one where police personnel are forcing the boys to recite the national anthem, Faizan is barely moving.
In a second video, one can see ten policemen surround Faizan while they thrash him. Faizan is not making a run for his life or fighting back. Other policemen pick him and push him from one side to another.
Their counsel, Vrinda Grover, said while the police seem fixated on only finding the men who can be seen in the videos or behind it, 'he was also detained for 48 hours in the Jyoti Nagar police station'. "Not once are we hearing in the court or the newspaper, that they are investigating along those lines," she said.
The police have told the court that the CCTV footage from the police station was not working from 24 February to 4 March due to technical faults. "This fault had been lodged in the daily diary register of the police station. The fault was rectified on 4 March," reads the police's status report in the Delhi High Court. They have also relied on the statement of the man who came to fix the CCTV cameras, to say that no tampering was involved.
It was during the same time that the police had allegedly made a request to Faizan's mother, to alter her statement.
"I have repeatedly asked in the Delhi HC for the CCTV footage of the Jyoti Nagar police station. There are police registers and log books that will document and note each of these aspects, especially the CCTV footage. However, very conveniently, the police has said that the CCTV footage is not functioning on that day," Grover said.
She went on to say:
Taunts and Comments: How Faizan's Family is Being Ridiculed
The family told us how many relatives and friends of theirs have stopped meeting them due to the case against the police over the last year and a half.
Other than that, they said that fights get ugly quickly as people taunt them for building a home with the Rs 10 lakh they got as compensation after Faizan's death. "Just a day before we had a fight with our former landlords. They want us to pay inflated electricity bills which we do not have money for. We do not even have money to pay the rent. So we left the flat earlier this month. As soon as the conversation got mildly heated, they started taunting us and said "Bete maarte raho aur paisa lete raho. (Keep getting your sons killed and kept getting money.)," Nadeem recounted.
Kismatun who seemed visibly shaken for the first time in our conversation said she was deeply hurt they would say that. "I told them they should also try and live a life without their child. We did not want him to die, nor did we get him killed. Ask me what I go through, I told them," she said. The family has built a four-storey home with 4 small rooms on each floor, for the three sons and their families.
Over the year the family has become wary of who comes forward to help them.
While Nadeem works in printing, Naeem as a tailor and Waseem as a battery van driver, there has been no proper income in the house. Kismatun keeps saying, we need another Rs 2 lakh to finish building our home.
Faizan Had Dreams, Was Engaged to be Married
As a child Faizan studied till Class 4 and soon started working to support his mother.
Their father, Lal Mohammad, who was a vegetable seller had died in a road accident while on his way to the mandi in west UP's Loni. From the age of 10-11, he worked as a tailor. Then after some years, he started his business of chicken. He would make Rs 800 - Rs 1,000 a day. "He knew he had to support the family and me, and did that like a good son," Kismatun says.
The family had wanted Faizan to get married soon.
"His work was going well, so we got him engaged two months before his death. It was someone we knew through our distant relatives. He was supposed to get married a few months later, on the upcoming Eid in May 2020," Kismatun said, adding that the girl was in trauma for some time.
"She was quite shaken, but because she was only engaged and not married she was able to get out of it." The girl has married someone else now.
Advocate Vrinda Grover: Investigation Does Not Inspire Any Confidence
It has also been reported that the three policemen who have been identified would be put through a lie detector test. To this Grover said, " The way the Crime Branch is investigating this case is rather odd. When the police is investigating somebody in a murder case, the police usually strongly and vehemently argue seeking the police remand of the suspect, in order to conduct a custodial interrogation. This is standard practice for the police and I would imagine definitely so in a murder case. Here, media reports inform us that the suspects will be taken for lie detector tests. Why on earth is a lie detector test being conducted? Is it admissible in evidence? Will it take the investigation forward? Is that the kind of investigation and interrogation that is expected of the Crime Branch of the capital city?"
Speaking about the delay and the nature of the investigation, Grover says, "What is the message that the state is giving to the family and community? That first there are men in uniform who will target you for your religious identity, beat you to a pulp till you die, then no prompt and effective investigation will take place to arrest the offenders and murderers."
Grover says she would imagine that the Commissioner or Police and the DCP would be very keen to identify who are the men who abused their uniform to target innocent citizens with a communal intent. "Is the police not interested in weeding out these offenders from their ranks?"
She goes on to conclude, "Look at the picture that emerges with regard to riot related cases. The Delhi Police claims that they have unravelled a sinister conspiracy around the riots. Young secular activists are behind bars. Charge sheets have been filed which run into over 20,000 pages. But a year and half later the Crime Branch of Delhi Police has not been able to solve this case even when there are two videos of police men beating young Faizan. Does this not raise a question on the integrity and competence of the Police ."