Despite Asif’s father and his brother and eyewitness Rashid having named four accused in the Asif lynching case, the Haryana Police has in their investigation found them innocent. The police has submitted their discharge pleas to a local court, that has facilitated their return to their homes on 8 June night, The Quint has learnt.
Asif’s family is shocked that the four have already been given a clean chit, even before the charge sheet in the case could be filed. The eyewitness of the incident, Rashid, who was with Asif and sustained serious injuries, has provided this reporter with clear details of the involvement of the four accused at the scene of the crime.
The four were amongst 14 people named in the FIR, which was registered on a complaint filed by Zakir’s father while Rashid sat on the side narrating what had happened. The four were arrested a day after the incident on 17 May.
Ever since they returned to their village, Khalilpur Kheda, which is the same village where Asif resides, tensions have been on the rise. Asif’s family is concerned about Rashid and their own safety.
The fact that several mahapanchayats were being organised in favor of the accused, a controversial matter in which an FIR has not been registered even ten days later, has not helped Asif’s family gain confidence in the police.
For this story, we spoke to Asif’s father, Zakir, the only eyewitness Rashid and Deputy Superintendent of Police Sudheer Taneja, who is heading the SIT formed to investigate the case.
‘I Saw The 4 Men Abusing, Thrashing Asif and Myself With My Own Eyes’: Rashid
30-year-old Rashid, who has two children and a wife, is appalled that the police have let the four men off the hook. Speaking to this reporter from an unknown location, concerned about his safety, Rashid said ever since the accused have returned they are drinking and partying, “Aisi harkat kar rahain hai ki humein bura lage, jashan mana rahain hai. (They are doing things that are hurting us, it is like they are celebrating.) They are saying they will take care of everything and taunting us.”
“I know these men, they live close by. I had seen them with my own eyes which is why I had ensured the complaint included their names as accused. I do not know why they have been let off.”
When pointed out that the complaint was written by Zakir Hussain, Rashid said he was sitting right there. “Asi’fs father was sitting next to me but I am the one who got the complaint registered,” he said.
Speaking about the involvement of the four accused one by one, he outlined what he saw all four of them do.
“Mahendra was loudly screaming and abusing non-stop, he was saying pick these men up and lets take them from here. He was directing the mob as a whole.”
“Anoop is Mahendra’s son and was involved in beating and thrashing both me and Asif, especially me. Anoop was amongst the men who were concentrating all their might to beat me up primarily. Poora ka poora vo shamil tha (He was completely involved).”
“Sandeep and Rajkumar had sticks in their hands, they were constantly hitting the car in which we had sat. The car that they had cornered from all sides and which over turned because they had rammed into our vehicle. They were actively involved in breaking the window down and hitting Asif inside the car. I was lying like a dead person ahead of the car watching and hearing everything.”
Rashid said he was lying on the road, almost lifeless, when Asif was trying to run away from the side of the car. Seeing Asif’s attempt to escape, everyone forgot him and left to thrash him, he said. This is when he found a few seconds to run away and call his family. Since the day, Rashid’s family has kept him safe and away from everyone’s eye.
He also says that while the police has found reason to let them off, they have not come and spoken to him or his family even once in their investigation before deciding to discharge the four accused.
Asif’s Father Says, ‘We Have Lost Confidence in the Police’
In our last report on the case, Zakir had told us that they did not want to respond to the mahapanchayats as they believed that the police would do their job diligently. However now, his belief is crumbling. He said:
“What they (the police) are doing is wrong, Rashid is an eyewitness and saw the men over there. The police has called them innocent. Above that they have not even arrested many of the absconding accused, everyone is out. The fact that they are doing all of this, we have now lost all confidence in them.”
Speaking about why they got discharged, Zakir alleges it is because of the pressure of the mahapanchayats. “They have been discharged due to the mahapanchayats only, they have put pressure and got their way one way or another,” he guesses.
Haryana DSP Says, ‘We Have Sufficient Evidence to Declare Them Innocent’
“It is the job of the family to name the accused they think are involved, it is then our job as the investigative agency to see if the accused are the culprits or not. The people from the Mahapanchayat also came and told us the accused were innocent and we told them we will investigate the matter and if they are innocent we will go ahead and let them go. Since our investigation revealed they were not involved, we did that,” SIT chief and Deputy Superintendent of Police (Headquarters) Sudheer Taneja said adding they had sufficient evidence to take the step.
From the mobile locations, it has been established that four named accused, Mahendra, Anoop, Sandeep and Rajkumar alias Raju are innocent. “To add to that we also found that two of them were at a birthday party at the time, for which we have videos and the other two were with their family members who have also testified. So we have sufficient solid grounds to move their discharge,” Taneja said.
We told Rashid about how the police declared them innocent based on mobile locations, to which he said that the office of the accused was half a kilometer away. He said, “It was Sandeep’s birthday and Rajkumar was also there. It is only half a kilometer away so what does it mean to say mobile location proves innocence, what if they just left their phone behind?”
Simultaneously we also asked the DSP him about the investigation into the mahapanchayats to which he instantly said, “We are looking into that matter and seeking legal opinion.” When we pointed out that it had been ten days since the last mahapanchayat and inquired why it was taking so long to decide if a case must be registered or not, Taneja told this reporter ‘to speak to the SHO’. We also pointed out how the videos blatantly showed that they were not wearing masks and flouting COVID guidelines, which is when Taneja again said we must speak to the SHO and disconnected the call.
The SHO did not answer our questions about the case saying that the DSP would. We have confirmed that as of now no FIRs have been filed in the case of mahapanchayats being organised in Mewat.