‘They Shot Him’: Kin of Three Deceased Blame UP Police, Seek FIR
A year after Aftab, Raees and Saif said they were shot by police before dying, their kin moved court to file FIRs.
“The police cannot say that they have not killed my son. I can say with assurance that they killed my son. Before dying, my son told me that the police had fired at him,” 55-year-old Najma Bano, Aftab Alam’s mother, told The Quint as we sat outside her brick-exposed home in the Muslim-majority area of Munshi Purwa in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur.
With caution in her gait that comes with age, Najma spent hours over the last year commuting to the police station – and now the courts – to register an FIR against her son’s death.
After repeated visits to the police station proved futile, as the local policemen dismissed her claims and insisted her son died in cross-firing between anti-CAA protesters themselves, she is now knocking the doors of the court as a last resort. Her lawyer has moved an application under Section 156/3 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) to ensure the court directs the police to register an FIR.
This is not only Najma and her son, 23-year-old Aftab’s story, but also the story of the two other men who succumbed to bullet injuries in Kanpur – Raees Khan and Mohd Saif. They, too, expressed in confidence to their families and friends that the police had shot them, and like Najma, their families have also moved court to register an FIR after being told off by the police.
The Quint met the families of the three deceased, their lawyer Nasser Khan and the UP Police, in our series on one year since the Act was passed, called CAA: Lest We Forget, and found an unrelenting quest for justice pitted against the government’s silence on their claims. While families claim the cops are using money as a bait to lure them to a compromise through their lawyer, their lawyer says he is being threatened with death if he does not stop advocating for the families of the three deceased men.
This is the first in a series of ground reports on the aftermath of the December 2019 violence, between the anti-CAA protesters and UP Police, that spread across Uttar Pradesh where 23 people died. More reports from other districts that were similarly impacted will follow.
‘Under Pressure to Take our Complaints Back’
The families of Raees, Saif and Aftab, all of whom live in Begum Purwa area of Kanpur, said that they were being pressured to take their cases back. Najma, for instance, told this reporter, “The lawyer (Nasser Khan) told me that some inspector is suggesting we take Rs 5 lakh each and withdraw the case. I did not agree. I told my lawyer to make him meet me instead. I would tell him to take Rs 10 lakh from me and get his son killed. Only then I will agree.”
A similar claim was made by Mohammad Saif’s father, 62-year-old Mohammad Taqi as well. When asked why he believed his lawyer was under pressure, he said, “He (Khan) told us that he was under pressure, that the policemen are troubling him and pressurising him to strike a compromise. When he told us, we told him that we do not want to compromise. This pressure is not only on us but all three families whose sons died. They want us to take our cases back and end the matter,” he said.
The Quint met 42-year-old Nasser Khan at his office cum residence, buzzing with calls and people. Reacting to him being pressurised and threatened, he said, “These threats are an everyday affair for me. Many people are threatening me to give up defending these cases. They are my clients and must be safe. My faith is advocating for my client. People have also told me that I should drop the cases or I could lose my life. Sure, let that happen. If I get scared I will not be able to do my job.”
This reporter sent allegations made by the families to the Kanpur Superintendent of Police, but has not received a response yet. The copy will be updated as and when they respond.
‘Before Dying, My Son Told Me Police Shot Him’: Aftab’s Mother
Najma Bano said that despite sustaining a bullet injury, Aftab was still talking. When she enquired after his bullet wound on the chest, he said the police had shot him. After a while he kept staring at her. Recalling her son’s last words to her she says that he told her ‘he was not going to survive’.
Back in the hospital, as she saw her son’s condition deteriorating in the government-run Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital, popularly known as Hallet Hospital, she kept asking the doctors to save his life. “The doctors were not tending to him at all. There was no treatment. I kept asking the doctors to check up on my son, but there were more prominent or important people coming in. They were being tended to, but not my son. Around 8:00 pm at night (20 December) they came to me and told me that he was going to be operated upon, I asked them what was the point of it all as he had already breathed his last by then.”
Najma Bano stared into the distance and broke down. She explained how she had sent him from home to get the previous day’s daily wage from a construction site.
Till weeks after her son’s death she was too scared to visit the police station. Over time as no one came to meet her and nothing untoward happened with her and her family, she decided to take matters into her own hands. “I went to the police station to get a report registered and they told me that they won't register my complaint. Instead they asked me how I know if the police shot at him. I told them that my son told me before dying, then how can I not believe you did not shoot him?,” Najma’s successive visits to the police station ended in disappointment time and again.
The police told Najma what their official stand on the matter is – a statement they repeated to The Quint is as well. They said the three men died in cross-firing between the protesters and there was no evidence to suggest that the police fired at the men.
The Begumpura SHO also added that anyone is free to approach the courts with their evidence, however the police can not file two FIRs of the same instance. Circle officer of Babupurwa Alok Singh told this reporter that he was appointed to the post after the anti-CAA violence of December 2019. He acknowledged that since the three families had approached the court, the matter will now be taken forward based on the court’s directions.
Najma eventually stopped visiting the station as her attempts went in vain.
“They are saying that the crowd killed each other. What enmity did they have with each other? You are the ones firing the gun. My son went to offer prayers or to fire bullets?” Najma asked, oscillating between anguish and frustration. Referring to a particular video that she also shared with this reporter, she said that the police can be seen firing bullets. “They are repeatedly saying, shoot them, do not let them go. Watch it for yourself,” she says.
‘No Doctor Touched Him After Hearing His Name’: Raees’ Father
Not too far away 70-year-old Mohammad Shareef, Raees Khan’s father, sat outside his home in the lane adjoining Begum Purwa, peeling garlic. Unlike Najma who silently broke down, Shareef cried out loudly upon seeing this reporter. 30-year-old Raees, who used to sell papad, had taken an off on that fateful day but decided to wash utensils in the Eidgah for Rs 350. “I told him to enjoy himself as he had taken an off, but he said that the Rs 350 would help in household expenses and decided to work.”
It was while Raees was working at a wedding tent close to the Eidgah and next to the maidan, that he died after being hit by a bullet on his stomach. While he was brought home before being taken to the hospital, Shareef says his son repeatedly told him that the police fired bullets at him.
Back at the hospital, no one tended to him. “The doctor heard he had a Muslim name and did not want to touch him at all. We were thumping our chests and asking for help, but no one was listening to us,” Shareef said, beating his chest with both his hands and drawing a wider crowd around him. His son died on 22 December, his father confirmed from his elder son and said.
Dismissing the police’s theory of how the protesters killed themselves, Shareef asked, “The police is saying that there was shooting between us and that is how my son died. Now tell me this, when we go to offer prayers, will we go with weapons? We will go with empty hands, right?”
He said the local police station called him in a few months ago and asked for his thumb impression on some papers. “I told them I would not. I said I would do it only after my lawyer tells me to. Then I was forced to leave from there,” he said.
“I do not trust the police,” Shareef said. When asked why, he said, “When the police did not register our FIR, did not help us in anyway, did not show us any sympathy whatsoever, why would I trust them?” He believes the police is trying to suppress his voice. “They are going to try and use every way to suppress us. So, go ahead, try. If we must die by your hands, we will die,” he said, exposing the breakdown of trust between him and the government. His case to register an FIR is also being fought by Nasser Khan.
‘Found Out he Died Through Newspaper’: Saif’s Father
Back in Munshi Purwa we met the family of 25-year-old Mohammad Saif. A daily-wage worker, Saif had come home to eat and stepped out again with food for his elder brother, Mohammad Jaki, his parents said. It was while he was on his way, that he stopped at the mosque to offer prayers. The procession grew, and a stampede like situation occurred, following which he was shot.
Rushed to Hallet Hospital, his family says that the doctors did absolutely nothing to help him. They said they found out through local newspapers that their son was already dead the next day, on 21 December. This is before anyone in the hospital officially communicated it to them. “They got too late in operating on him,” his 62-year-old father Mohammad Taqi said.
Like Aftab and Raees, he too, told his family members that the police had shot him. While all families claim the same, there is no written statement by the deceased claiming they were shot by the police – a reason why their claims are being allegedly dismissed as lack of evidence. They were brought to the hospital for several hours before they breathed their last.
This reporter asked their lawyer Nasser Khan if statements to the families from the deceased themselves carry any weight. “Yes, that is right. Before dying all three made statements in front of the doctors, their parents and friends, that the police had shot them. I wrote an application on the basis of this and submitted it to the SSP as well, but since no FIR has been registered, I've moved court under provisions of CrPC 156/3 and the final arguments are going on.”
When asked if a written dying declaration would have carried any weight, he said, the cases would have been registered right at that moment itself. “This is the negligence of the police that they did not record dying declarations. If someone is dying, it is logical that they would record their statements in front of a magistrate or a higher official. Why did they get late? It would have all been clear then itself. This is the responsibility of the government.”
Unable to hold back her tears, Saif’s mother Qamal Jahaan broke her silence to say, “The way the police treated my son, the same thing will happen with their children as well. Their children will go in the same way as well.”
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