Video Editor : Mohd Irshad Alam
Cameraperson: Aishwarya S Iyer
“The police is themselves saying that they were the target of the protesters, but none of the policemen have been shot or injured. Then why should we agree that the protesters have shot their own. Why will they do that?,” Meerut-based advocate Riyasat Ali, who is handing the cases of the five men who died from the west UP district in the bloody violence of December 2019, told The Quint while we sat in his one-room chamber in the court complex.
The five people he is legally representing are, Asif, Mohsin, Aleem, Shahid and another man called Asif. All five died from bullet injuries in the violent clashes between UP Police and anti-CAA protesters on 20 December. A total of twenty three people had died across UP due to the bloody confrontation. In our series of ground reports on the aftermath of the violence called CAA: Lest We Forget, we bring you this ground report from Meerut. This reporter met the families of all five deceased as well as the lawyer representing them. We also reached out to the office of the SSP and DM of Meerut, but did not get responses despite repeated attempts.
Unlike other areas of UP where we did ground reports from, like Bijnor and Kanpur where the minority community seemed scared to speak up, in Meerut they were in pain but remained unafraid. Meerut is the first district of UP where applications were moved by various families in court, to get an FIR registered against the policemen.
While the families believe their sons died as the police fired bullets at them, the police has said in their charge sheet that the five men died due to firing between protesters. When we asked the lawyer, what the police was basing their case on, Ali said, “The evidence in case diary, on what basis is the police saying that the protesters shot each other? They have no independent witness, which is why police’s story will not stand the scrutiny of the court.”
Aleem’s brother Salahuddin claims he even has evidence to back his claims. While the videos he has do not show the policemen directing firing at his brother, he says it shows that the police had guns in their hand in the same place where his brother was shot dead. This reporter asked if he had shared this circumstantial evidence with the police or anyone in the administration. He said, “We did not go to them as they would take our evidence away from us, also how other innocent people have been jailed in cases, we would also be locked up in jail. The investigation would have then stagnated.”
Zahir’s brother Shahid, who works to make jackets in northeast Delhi said several eyewitnesses had told him that his brother was shot by the police. “Have you asked them if they will come forward,” this reporter asks. “They all said they will not give any statement. They are all concerned about themselves. Who wants to make an enemy of the police,” he said.
Their lawyer, Ali, says he knows of the eyewitnesses and will bring them out when the time is right. “Right now there is no FIR, so we can not ask for protection for the eyewitnesses from court. Once the case is registered, which I am sure will happen sooner or later, hopefully the eyewitnesses will come forward once they see the provisions in the law for witness protection.”
While families wait patiently, Mohsin’s mother Nafisa Begum and Asif’s mother-in-law Shameen both said they want to fight the case in court and get justice for their daughters who lost their husbands. Nafisa says that her son had stepped out of the house to get fodder for the cattle when this happened, Shameen says that he was out to find work. “Asif did not have parents or brothers, he was all that my daughter and their kids had. This is why he never got into fights. He used to remain scared. That is why he stepped out that day, there was no work as markets were closed so he was hoping he would be able to find something to make a few 100 rupees. Nafisa keeps saying she wants justice, when asked what justice means to her, she said looking straight at this reporter, “Justice means that my son was innocent, so how did they shoot him then?”
Asif’s father Id-ul-Hassan says it has been a year but nothing has happened, “It has been a year, there is no report, nothing in writing, no testimony, or anything for us to think that the case has progressed.” When asked if he would want to say something to the police, he says that there is no use. “What do I say to the government when they never even came to see us? No one came to speak or meet us.”
All five are in different places to have either already moved their applications under 156/3 of CrPC. This provision states that if the police is not registering an FIR themselves, then the complainant can move court which then directs the court to register an FIR. Giving us an update on where all the court processes stand, Riyasat said, “In the case of Mohsin, his initial plea was rejected by court and the revision plea is pending in court. Zahir's plea was also rejected like Mohsin was, we will file revision there too. In the case of Salahuddin (Aleem) the 156/3 plea is pending in court, in the case of Id-Ul-Hassan (Asif) will be filed soon and in the case of the second Asif we will file the 156/3 petition in court soon too.”