"My 8-year-old son was beaten up by the police very badly and he was handcuffed and was taken to court after being tied with a rope," said mother of a boy who was arrested for allegedly "inciting" communal clashes at Bihar's Barharia town on last Thursday, 8 September.
The boy was granted bail by a Siwan court on Wednesday, 14 September.
The 8-year-old boy and his 65 year-old-grandfather were arrested along with others after communal clashes broke out at Barharia town last Thursday when members belonging to procession shouted communal slogans as they walked past a mosque in the area.
Following the incident, the Bihar police registered an FIR against 100 unknown, and 35 known people on charges of IPC sections including 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 188 (disobedience to order), 296 (disturbing religious assembly). They also arrested 20 people, 10 each from the Hindu and Muslim communities for causing the riots.
Discrepancy in the Boy's Age
While the age of the boy has been recorded by the police as 13 in the FIR, his family claims that the boy is eight. The boy's brother also showed his date of birth certificate to The Quint to prove this.
"My brother's date of birth is recorded as 01-01-2014 in the birth certificate. Is the government certificate wrong? The police is saying that my brother told them his age was 13 years. But it is a complete lie. My brother will himself come out and tell the world what the police did to him,” the 8-year-old's brother said.
Speaking to The Quint, Praveen Prabhakar, in-charge of the Barharia police station said, “During interrogation before the magistrate, the boy himself stated that his age was 13 years, on the basis of which the FIR has been registered. His real age will be clear after the investigation."
Boy's Mother Alleges Custodial Torture of Son
The 8-year-old's mother alleged that her son was badly beaten up by the police, while he was in the custody.
"I saw with my own eyes when he was taken to the court after being tied with a rope. When the policemen opened the rope tied in his hand at our behest, he hugged us and started crying. He started telling us how the police had treated him," the 8-year-old's mother told The Quint.
The boy's grandfather who was given bail on Tuesday, was also reportedly produced in court with a rope tied around his waist.
The mother further alleged that police had demanded money for letting off the boy.
"Two policemen met outside the court. One was in uniform and the other was wearing plain clothes. They started asking for Rs 10,000-12,000. We said we are poor people, how will we get the money?" she said.
What Had Happened?
Stating that he was an eyewitness in the case, the boy's brother narrated what happened last Thursday.
"The violence took place in the evening when my brother had gone to the mosque to offer Namaz. The police came late at night for questioning my 65-year-old grandfather. Along with him, my brother was also taken to the police station for questioning. It was said that after interrogation and identification, everyone would be released. At that time the police also fired batons on Rizwan, so we understood that he would not be let off soon. After taking them to the police station, the police put everyone in lockup," he told The Quint.
Speaking to The Quint, Naseem Akhtar, former chief, Barharia said that the members of the procession had shouted slogans like 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Hindustan mein rehna hai to Jai Shri Ram kehna hoga' to allegedly provoke the Muslims.
"When the Shobha Yatra reached near the mosque, the people involved in it started shouting slogans against the Muslims. Slogans like 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Hindustan mein rehna hai to Jai Shri Ram kehna hoga.' When you shout such slogans in front of any Muslim to provoke him they will feel bad. The Namazis present inside the mosque opposed it. Then the violence broke out," Naseem Akhtar said.
Initially people from the nearby houses pelted stones, he said adding, "When the mob attacked the mosque and started vandalising it, the people inside the mosque pelted stones to drive them away for their own safety. But by then the mob had vandalised the entire mosque."
'Lack of Prompt Action By Police, Local Administration Caused the Violence'
This is not the first time such violence has happened in Barharia. Similar incident has taken place in the area in the past as well. However, this time, political leaders, the boy's brother says, it happened due to the negligence of police, and local administration.
Pappu Yadav, president of Bihar's Jan Adhikar Party, has blamed the police for this violence. Pappu Yadav says, “Government changed but administration did not change. This is the result of administrative error. Action should be taken against the local officials."
Naseem Akhtar, former chief of Barharia, says, “The procession takes place every year. But this time the promptness of the administration was not seen as before. When the violence started, the administration was nowhere to be seen. They came much later, that too with very little capacity. That's why the rioters prevailed."
“Who gave the procession the right to attack the mosque. Beat the worshippers. Break the vajukhana. If all this happened in the presence of the police then it is very shameful and if the police were not there then what were they doing?" asked the 8-year-old's brother.
Police Justify their Action, Say Boy Was 'Not Handcuffed or Put in Lockup'
There are allegations that the police did not act promptly to stop the violence. However, the police has justified their action and said they arrested people only based on video evidence.
Speaking to The Quint, Siwan's SP Abhinav Kumar said,
"Police acted promptly, so the violence did not take a major form. We got it under control. The police have evidence against all the arrested people, that's why they were arrested. The accused have been identified on the basis of the video footage."
On the 8-year-old's arrest, SP Kumar said, "During the interrogation, if the boy said his age was 13 years, then the same would be recorded, right?. His correct age will be revealed in the investigation. As for arresting him or putting him in lockup and handcuffing, it has not happened at all. We have evidence against him in the form of video footage. And he was neither kept in lockup nor sent to jail. Since he is a minor, he has been sent to a juvenile home on the directions of the court."
The SP said the police had acted very impartially in the whole matter. "People from both the sides have been arrested. And we have arrested only those against whom we have strong evidence," he said.
(With inputs from Quint Hindi.)