At 12:30 am on 25 August, the local police in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh knocked on the door of Zakir Ali Tyagi, a 21-year-old journalism student.
Tyagi was in his bed watching primetime news on his laptop. He hit the pause button and got up to open the door. He was surprised to see around 17 policemen at his doorstep. He asked them for the reason of their visit, but they didn’t say a word.
“They started beating me up and said, ‘Tu hi hai Yogi-Modi wala (you are the one who talks about Yogi and Modi).’ They then dragged me out of my house and pushed me into their police jeep. I kept asking them why were they taking me, but they did not tell me,” Tyagi tells The Quint, speaking from his home in Bada Gaon village, in Meerut district.
Tyagi says he assumed he had been picked up for his involvement in anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh.
The police took him to Kila Parikshitgarh station, approximately 5-6 km from his village. He spent the night in a lock-up, but none of the police officers questioned him or told him the reason, Zakir claims.
‘Pressurised by Local BJP Workers’
Later in the morning, a few people, including the village head from his village, came to the police station for his bail. It was then revealed that Tyagi had been arrested on the suspicion of cow slaughter. But the police did not hear the villagers’ side of the story – and asked them to leave.
“Munneshwar (local villager) was also present at the station with other villagers. Munneshwar had complained about finding the remains of a cow on his farm in Bada Gaon. Munneshwar had not taken any names; the police lodged a nameless complaint,” Tyagi alleges.
The police had told them that Tyagi had been “arrested under political pressure” because Munneshwar didn’t mention his name in the complaint, Bada Gaon’s gram panchayat head Talib tells The Quint.
“Munneshwar, on 23 August, had informed the police that the remains of a cow were found on his farm. The police then lodged a complaint and arrested a 17-year-old local villager on the suspicion of cow slaughter and locked him up in a thana in Parikshitgarh,” Tyagi claims.
“He was locked up for two days. He was arrested because his father Irfan had earlier been involved in petty crimes in the village, so the police, without any proof, assumed that Irfan might have been involved in cow slaughter, too. But, as Irfan was out of the village for the past one month, the police picked his son up to hush the matter, as they were being pressurised by local BJP ground workers,” Tyagi alleges.
His son is a minor – and he was arrested due to petty local politics, Irfan tells The Quint.
“They wanted to arrest me, but since I was not in the village at that time, I had gone to Purnia (Bihar) for a personal reason, so they arrested my son,” he adds.
Irfan claims that he returned to his village on 25 August, and went to meet his son on 27 August, but he wasn’t allowed. “They abused me and asked me to leave. I just went to give him some clothes as he hadn’t changed his clothes in four days,” Irfan states.
His son isn’t physically fit as he often gets seizures, Irfan adds.
“The boy was not feeling well in the jail. He had seizures on two occasions while we were in the jail, but the police did not help him. I had to take care of him,” Tyagi recounts.
What Happened in Jail?
On the afternoon of 25 August, Tyagi claims that the police brought a bag filled with weapons used for slaughtering cows. They allegedly forced Tyagi and the minor to sign the bags and other documents confessing to the crime. After signing the documents, the police took Tyagi to the local court for further proceedings. He states that the sub-inspector knew “I am being forcefully implicated in the case.”
“The sub-inspector stated that the court knew I was being implicated in the case because these weapons were planted by the police itself,” alleges Tyagi.
When The Quint asked Mithun Dixit, SHO of Kila Parikshit, on what basis Tyagi was picked up, he claimed, “An informant had told us about Zakir’s involvement”.
Upon questioning further, the SHO remarked, “Aap logon ko nahi samajh aayega (You won’t understand).” On asking about what evidence were found against Zakir, the SHO said “kya karoge jaan kar? ( what will you do about it?)”
After the court proceedings, Tyagi was sent to 16 days of custody. He was lodged in Chhotu Ram College temporary jail with 35 other inmates.
His hearing was postponed twice in one week, and he was finally given bail on 7 September, and was released on 9 September. The minor also got bail on the same day.
‘Real Culprits Arrested Under Different Charges’
The former gram panchayat head of Bada Gaon, who also helped Tyagi in his bail, tells The Quint that two days after Tyagi was arrested on the suspicion of cow slaughter, two brothers Nasir and Bobby from the same village had confessed to the crime of cow slaughter. However, both the brothers were arrested under charges of theft.
Talib, the present gram panchayat head, claims the police did this to hush the case.
‘I Don’t Feel Safe in Uttar Pradesh’
This isn’t the first time that Tyagi has been arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police. In 2017, he was arrested under the charges of the Indian Penal Code Section 420 (cheating) and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act (computer-related offences).
He was released on bail after 40 days, but the police added Section 124A dealing with sedition in the charge sheet.
Just before Tyagi’s arrest in 2017, Yogi Adityanath had taken over as the state chief minister. Adityanath in his speech promised to rid his hometown Gorakhpur of goonda raj. Tyagi had reportedly put up a post on Facebook that questioned the chief minister on criminal cases registered against him, as The Quint reported in 2017.
Tyagi says that he will leave Uttar Pradesh for good, as he doesn’t feel safe in the state anymore.
He says, “I am not sure, they might arrest me under some false charges again... they might implicate me in a false case... I don’t feel safe in this state anymore, I want to leave.”