"The police hit me....They put a pistol to my head. They were about to shoot me when people came," says 19 year-old Mohammad Danish, lying down in a hospital bed with his mouth covered by an oxygen mask.
Danish, a resident of Purela village in Uttar Pradesh's Pratapgarh district, was returning home from Chhitpalgarh market at 5:30 pm on 10 May. He was allegedly stopped near Barsanda village by Sub Inspector Ramanuj Yadav of police booth Chhitpalgarh and two constables Deepak and Harshvardhan.
They asked him for his bike documents and driving licence, which he did not have.
"My brother informed him that he did not have a driver's licence. The daroga (sub-inspector) began abusing him. He told them not to abuse him and to talk to our father," Danish's elder brother Mohammad Mohsin, 25, told The Quint.
Danish's father works as an Inspector with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), a paramilitary force that reports to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
According to Mohsin, police officers snatched Danish's phone and turned it off, slapped him three or four times, seized his motorbike and put him into a police van.
Communal Slurs Hurled At Victim: Kin
The family claims that Danish was taken to the Chhitpalgarh police station and assaulted. "My brother told them that some of our family members are in the military and others are lawyers. This enraged them more."
"They hurled abuses at him... called him 'katua'", alleged Mohsin. Katua which translates to circumcised, is a derogatory term used against Muslim men.
According to his family, the 19-year-old was taken to the Delhupur Police Station in Pratapgarh and beaten again.
'Danish Can't Move An Inch'
Mohsin arrived at Delhupur police station at 7 pm, accompanied by a few lawyers, family members, and local journalists.
"The police told me that my brother was not at the station. I told them I could hear him screaming inside. I handed them my lawyer identification. I was let in, but they wouldn't let me take my phone," claimed Mohsin, who is a junior advocate at the Allahabad High Court.
"Danish was unconscious, and the police asked if my brother had epilepsy. I told them he was unconscious because they thrashed him," Mohsin added.
Mohsin claimed that his brother had bruises on his face and chest and that Sub-Inspector Ramanuj Yadav told him that Danish was doing bakaiti (talking nonsensically), which is why he slapped him three or four times.
"They summoned a doctor to examine him. He told the inspector that my brother's condition was critical and that he should be taken to a hospital," Mohsin told The Quint.
Danish's family drove him to a local private hospital, where they were instructed to take him to Prayagraj. Danish has been admitted to Prayagraj's Aarogyavaram Hospital.
"My brother is recovering, but he can't move an inch. He's vomiting everything he eats."Mohsin, Danish's brother
According to family, Danish is suffering from a head injury and an injury near his left eye after being allegedly hit with a blunt object.
His left leg is also injured and he can’t move his left leg and left hand. There are bruises on his chest and back. Mohsin claims that the doctor told him that Danish may have been hit with a cane or a rod.
The Quint accessed videos and pictures of Danish, which showed bruises consistent with Mohsin's claim.
Mohsin claimed that around 6 pm, he received a call from locals saying that the police had stopped at a nearby bridge. They had taken Danish out of the vehicle and placed a pistol on Danish's head. When the locals gathered around to see what was going on, he said, they put him back in the police van and raced off to the police station.
"I confronted the police as to why they put a pistol on my brother's head. One of them said we were just scaring him," Mohsin added. He had no idea who the official who stated this to him was.
Sub-Inspector Yadav and constables Deepak and Harshvardhan, he claims, fled the police station.
The Quint accessed videos showing Danish on a hospital bed with an oxygen mask on, accusing police constable Harshvardhan and sub-inspector Yadav of beating him. "They were handing me a katta (desi pistol). I wasn't going to take it. They were about to shoot me when people came," Danish was heard saying.
FIR Filed, Investigation Underway
According to a copy of the FIR obtained by The Quint, Danish's family filed a complaint at the Delhupur police station against two unknown police officers and Inspector Ramanuj Yadav under sections 323 (Punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), and 308 (Attempt to commit culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
On 11 May, an independent journalist tweeted about the incident, and Pratapgarh Police responded – "Taking cognizance of the matter, legal action is being taken against the said policeman by registering charges against Delhupur police station. The procedure for departmental action is prevalent".
"SP sir informed me that these officers were going to be suspended. It's been two days and no one has been suspended," Mohsin remarked.
The Quint sought a response from Vinay Prabhakar Sahani, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Raniganj, Pratapgarh via phone call and WhatsApp text. He responded to the WhatsApp text saying, “Report sent to SP for departmental enquiry and for appropriate action against them.”
According to Nityanand Rai, minister of state for home affairs, 4,484 custody deaths have been reported in the last two years.
According to the data he presented, Uttar Pradesh reported 952 incidents of custodial deaths (451 in 2020 and 501 in 2021) in the previous two years, the highest in India.
In 2019, the National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT), an NGO dedicated to ending torture, documented 125 police custodial killings, with 60 percent of the victims belonging to poor and marginalised communities. This included 13 from the Dalit community and 15 Muslims.