“Chacha miyan kahaan jaoge, aao betho mein chhod doonga aapko (Uncle, where do you have to go? Come I will drop you),” these were the seemingly harmless words spoken by a young auto driver to 72-year-old Abdul Samad Saifi who was on his way to Hajipur Bheta in UP’s Ghaziabad district on the afternoon of 5 June.
But what was supposed to be a short auto ride, was followed by unimaginable four hours of violence that involved brutally slapping, thrashing, kicking, and threatening the old man who begged for mercy. The five accused cut his beard and threatened him with dire consequences if he opened his mouth. Saifi also claimed that they forced him to say "Jai Sri Ram".
Saifi’s relatives said he was on his way to offer condolences to a relative’s family, who had died during Ramzan and whom he hadn’t been able to visit due to Covid restrictions.
The Quint spoke to Saifi’s relative Asif, who he had come to meet in Loni; Saifi’s son Babbu who he was with; two eyewitnesses to whom Saifi had narrated what happened with him as soon as he returned, and a Loni Samajwadi Party member, Ummed Pahalwan Idrisi, who the locals had confided in after the incident.
“The men told him if you were young we would kill you, but because you are old we are letting you go. They gave him around Rs 50 and told him to find his way back,” 32-year-old Asif, whose home Saifi had returned to in Seemapuri border, told The Quint.
Investigation Underway, A Second Accused Rounded Up
While the incident itself has become viral via the video above, the police has also swung into action.
Deputy Superintendent of Police and Circle Officer Loni, Atul Kumar Sonker, said that the accused were charged on the basis of the complaint that was registered on 7 June.
Asif told us that Saifi was so scared then he was more interested in getting his phone number blocked, hence various details of the crime were not mentioned in the complaint at the time. “The FIR is regarding the attack on him and not for the more grievous charges regarding his beard being cut, him being forced to chant slogans and other things,” Pehalwan, who had accompanied them, said adding that more charges will be added soon, which Ghaziabad police has done.
“After the initial complaint, during our investigation we came across a viral video and spoke to the complainant in detail, based on which an FIR has been registered under Section 342 (wrongful confinement), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentionally insulting to break public peace), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 295A (deliberate malicious acts to outrage religious feelings by insulting religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code.”Deputy Superintendent of Police and Circle Officer Loni, Atul Kumar Sonker.
While the FIR registered on 7 June, which The Quint has a copy of, has the first four sections mentioned by Sonker, the fifth one regarding outraging religious feelings has been added later.
Ghaziabad police have arrested one of the accused, Pravesh Gujjar who is being called the main accused, and investigations to nab the others are on. “One more person has been nabbed right now, investigation is being conducted,” Sonker said when asked more about the background of the men.
‘Don’t Worry, You’ll Reach Your Destination’: What Men Told Saifi When He Grew Suspicious
After the incident got over, a bruised Saifi returned to his relative Asif’s home in utter pain and shock on 5 June night. Asif, Mohammad Arif, Haider Ali and other well-meaning neighbours arrived and Saifi told them what happened.
“They spoke to him sweetly, called him Chacha, and asked him to get inside the auto. They said they will drop him at closer to Hajipur Bheta but took a different route. When Saifi pointed out why they were not taking the straight road to the destination, they told him that policemen often trouble people. “Chacha aap fikar na karein, hum pohcha denge aapko (Uncle, do not worry, we will drop you) they said to him,” 32-year-old Mohammad Arif, who works at his father’s garment shop currently, after he lost his job of being a computer operator due to COVID, said.
Asif said Saifi was only crying and his body was shivering. “We asked him again and again what happened. Gave him water to drink and calm him. When I put my hand on his arm and he winced in pain, then he started saying what happened,” he said.
He narrated the incident as said in the video, and alleged that there were five men who abducted him, kicked him ruthlessly, beat him, put a pistol to his head, stole the Rs 1200 he had on him, forced him to Chant Jai Sri Ram, cut his beard, made him see videos of other Muslims being attacked and boasted that they had killed many Muslims before.
‘Saifi Was Scared to go to Police or Media’
While Saifi was still in shock, repeating again and again that he had been attacked, his relatives and locals got together and started discussing how they should approach this matter.
Saifi needed convincing to do anything as he was very scared. “The men had said they would kill him, so we really had to encourage him and push him to speak. We kept telling him that if he spoke up then they could prevent the same accused from doing this to another person. That he should think about preventing such crimes in the future,” Arif said.
29-year-old Haider Ali, who works at a private company as a computer operator, said, “Quoting the example of the child Asif being thrashed for drinking water in Ghaziabad’s Dasna Devi temple in March, we told him social media can be used to bring the perpetrators of a crime behind bars.”
The Quint had learnt about Saifi’s incident on 9 June but because Saifi did not want to speak then, we did not force the family to go on record.
“We discussed how we should take this case forward. Should we make a video and make this viral on social media or go to the police station first. We spoke to many people, including the responsible people from the community in Loni, like Samajwadi Party member Ummed Pehalwan Idrisi and decided that we would go to the police station first and then use social media. We went on 6 June and the police registered a case on 7 June,” Arif said.
Arif was present when the case was registered, he said, “The police behaved decently. The Thana (station) in-charge also listened to us properly. He said they will investigate the matter and do not want any compromise or money, but want to ensure nothing like this every happens again.”
After registering the case, Pehalwan did a 30 minute long Facebook Live as was planned, on his account on the evening of 7 June. This video, of Saifi narrating the incident, has gone viral since and being shared around.
Police officials are at Saifi’s residence (afternoon of 14 June) in west UP’s Anupshahr, and he is being taken to register his statement to the police station and maybe to the home where the crime occurred as well.
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