The alleged death by suicide of a 21-year-old Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj on Monday, 8 November, under contentious circumstances has raised several questions.
While the police has claimed that the youth, Altaf, died by suicide while in custody, his family has suggested foul play on the part of the police.
We examine the evidence in the case, the claims of the police and the families involved, and the gaps in their accounts.
Altaf's 'Death By Suicide'
What We Know: Taken to Police Station, Died There
21-year-old Altaf, a resident of Nagla Sayyad Ahroli had been accused of running away with a girl.
He had been taken to the Sadar police station for questioning on Monday, 8 November, in Kasganj, where he had allegedly died while in custody.
Superintendent of Police Rohan Botre has narrated the account of the incident as follows:
"Altaf, son of Chand Mian, was brought on the charge of running away with a girl. When the police were interrogating him, he asked the policeman to go to the bathroom. The police officer sent him to the bathroom inside the lock-up, and after a while, when he did not come out, a worker went to check. He had tightened the hood of his jacket around his throat, by tying it to a pipe."
"The staff present there opened [the bathroom door], untied him, and he was immediately taken to the hospital, where he died after being treated for some time. Five policemen have been suspended for prima facie negligence during the investigation," SP Botre added. No FIR has been filed in the case as of yet.
The police has further claimed that the autopsy confirmed death by hanging.
However, the police's account has prompted a number of questions about the incident.
What we Don't Know: How Did a 5 Feet Man Die After Hanging Himself From a 2 Feet Pipe?
Visuals of the police station washroom where Altaf allegedly hung himself from the plumbing have been widely circulated on social media.
The visuals show a pipe that is approximately 2 feet long, from which the police claim that Altaf had tied himself using the drawstrings of his jacket.
The question that immediately arises is how a plastic pipe, merely two feet long, could have taken the weight of the deceased – as the police has claimed. Moreover, the pipe is located on the wall at a point that would approximate half the height of the deceased.
Further, the pipe had reportedly come off from the wall, and had allegedly been fixed to its original position again.
The occurrence has raised concerns of tampering with an active crime scene.
Murdered in Police Custody or Suicide?
While Altaf's mother has alleged that her son was murdered, the youth's father has claimed that the police had taken his thumbprint on a document whose contents he was not informed about.
What We Know: Altaf's Mother Alleges Murder
Altaf’s mother has alleged that he was murdered. “My son had returned from work, sat down to eat food, that’s when the police came and picked him up. They asked him where the girl was.”
She added that they weren’t allowed to meet Altaf when he was taken into custody. She has further alleged that when she got to know of his death, she and other villagers went to the station but weren’t allowed to see him.
“Aren’t the police supposed to show the body before the post mortem? To see if there are any marks. But they didn’t show us his body,” she said.
Meanwhile, Altaf's father Chand Mian also initially alleged that his son had been killed in police custody. "I handed over my son to the cops. But I feel that my son has been killed," he had earlier said.
However, soon after he appeared to change his statement and give a clean chit to the police.
What We Don't Know: Why Altaf's Father Changed His Statement
In a video that surfaced two days later on social media, Altaf's father says, “I made the accusations and spoke to the media in anger. When I talked to the doctors, they told me that he (Altaf) had died by suicide. The police got him to the hospital, the doctors tried to treat him, but he couldn’t be saved.”
He adds, “The police behaved with me nicely.” On being asked if he is satisfied with the investigation, Chand Mian said that he was satisfied.
Further, in a video doing the rounds on the internet on Thursday, Altaf's father also appears to claim that the police asked him for his thumbprint on a statement he did not have knowledge of.
He said he was illiterate and could not read what was written before placing his thumbprint on the letter.
The written document, purported photos of which have been shared on social media, claims that Altaf was suffering from depression and had died by suicide.
Altaf’s mother Fatima, who has maintained that it was the police who killed her son, has said the statement made by her husband was given under duress.
On being asked about her husband’s contradictory statement, Fatima said the video is false. She also states that it was two policemen, the girl’s father and brother, who took Altaf away.
Altaf's Links With the 'Abducted' Girl
What We Know: Picked up For Abduction
Altaf had been picked up for questioning on a complaint by a Hindu family, who accused him of the abduction their 16-year-old daughter.
The girl, a student of Class 10, is still missing, while police teams are trying to find her, The Indian Express reported.
What We Don't Know: Did Altaf Know the Girl?
Superintendent of Police Rohan Botre has said that Altaf and the girl had an affair, but had fallen out. He was quoted as saying, “Altaf told us that they had been in a relationship.”
Citing sources, The Indian Express, reported that the minor’s family had shared a video of the two with the police.
Further, the police said the two had met when the girl’s family carried out some construction at their house five months ago, where Altaf was hired as a labourer.
However, the girl’s family has denied that she knew him.
'Any Humanity Left in UP?' Opposition Hits Out
Reacting to the incident, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asked in a tweet in Hindi, “Is there any thing called human rights left in Uttar Pradesh?”
Samajwadi Party President, Akhilesh Yadav, on the other hand, has said that the suspension of the five policemen is a disguised investigation and has further demanded a judicial probe.
(With inputs from The Indian Express.)