As night fell in Rampur, known as the city of Nawabs, in Uttar Pradesh, news about killing spree in neighbouring cities had spread. But despite uncertainties and tensions, hundreds gathered in Rampur the next morning with the courage to protest India’s new citizenship law. But Fate had no mercy.
“They (Muslim scholars) were put under house arrest and the administration had cut off the mobile network due to which the information couldn’t spread effectively,” Maulana Khan told Maktoob. Unlike other cities, violence in Rampur began on 21st December 2019, the day after massive protests and subsequent bloodshed against Muslims happened across Uttar Pradesh which took 22 lives.
The call for protest against CAA and NRC was given by Rampur’s Muslim leadership. A delegation of Majlis-e-Shoora members of Jamiat Ulema, Rampur unit including Mufti Mehboob, Maulana Ansar Qasmi, Hafiz Faizan and responsible people took permission from district administration to organise a protest at Eidgah Masjid with the assurances that the protest will remain peaceful.
The permission was revoked on the eve of 20th December 2019. But the news about calling off the protest didn’t get through.
“People started gathering at Eidgah where they were being stopped by the police and at 11 AM as the crowd moved towards Hathikhana, the police barricaded and tried to obstruct them. Police shelled teargas, lathi-charged and fired, indiscriminately.”
Speaking anonymously to Maktoob, many eyewitnesses allege that the police started throwing shell bombs, triggering violence. Not late, 22-year-old Faiz Khan was shot in his neck.
A year after the killing, Faiz’s family has declined to comment. But in a report by PTI, the deceased’s brother Faizan Ahmed accused police of killing his brother.
Ahmed said a group, including his family members and some locals, were on their way to the Eidgah via Haathikhana roundabout when they got caught in the clash at some distance from the Kotwali. Faiz was shot by the police when he intervened police action to help a Maulana.
“He (Faiz) held the lathi and a commotion of sorts ensued after which a policeman fell down. At this point, around 11.45 am, one policeman, came running from the Kotwali side and opened fire at Faiz, his bullet hitting him on the neck,” he told PTI. Ahmed, also alleged medical negligence and also accuse that his brother was taken to Moradabad hospital without the consent from the family.
Faiz’s family hasn’t registered an FIR against the police. Still, an FIR has been registered against Faiz’s Father as he was at the protest.
“Most of the accused in different FIRs are innocent and were arrested on the sections of Murder of Faiz, although he’s been killed by the police bullet,” says advocate Raafat*.
The following sections: 147, 148, 149, 307, 302, 353, 186, 143, 332, 333, 188, 435, 336, and 427 are charged as per the FIR reports which heavily rely on police eyewitness.
Witch hunt continues
“For the past few months, what I have noticed and gathered is that a lot of people have been arrested again. Police have become active, August-September onwards”.
Lawyers allege that police are picking young boys who were not present on the spot and some were not even in the city at the time of the protest.
Several FIR’s have been registered against 120 named and 10,000 unnamed people.
A look into the story of some people who were arrested and harassed, based on shabby evidence by the police. Many detainees were penalized for the destruction that happened during the violence. Although many videos of police vandalism have emerged through social media, no police are held accountable.
Police refuted allegations of any firing as well as killing of Faiz Khan. Six vehicles, including a police motorcycle, were torched, according to officials.
Maktoob spoke to some of the former detainees, who allege malicious investigation by police.
“They (Police) don’t have any proof, they just said they have my name. I had to give all the evidence such as my mobile location and documents proving that I wasn’t at the protest. Two days before the protest happened, I came back with my wife after her chemotherapy, she’s a cancer patient. We live alone, I take care of her and do all the chores of the house, and then go to my office. It seemed absurd that without any solid evidence they just barged in.” told Mr Rashad*.
“My brother hasn’t surrendered, why should he? He wasn’t at the protest. I have three brothers and my eldest one was accused of being at the CAA-NRC protest. His right hand is half-crippled, why would he go and attend a protest which was meant to be a violent one. We all know how the police work, how reckless and dangerous they are. They raided our home 5-6 times in hopes of catching my brother, but every time they visited, he wouldn’t be at home. They grabbed my youngest brother and put him in jail just to pressurise us. I contacted the DSP and told the officer the whole story and then they had to let him go. We asked if they have any proof, but they said that they will only show the proof in court. In all these cases, most of the accused are innocent, the police have become active yet again and are arresting young boys from their homes at midnight. I read about this in the local newspaper every second day. These cases are going to stretch for years as the SIT (Special Investigation Teams) are involved now. And in cases where the police give a testimony, it’s second to impossible to get your name out of such FIR’s. They’re going to harass such people so much so that in the end they will have to give in.” told Mr Ibaadat*, a resident of Rampur.
“They arrested my son and said they have his name in the FIR which was shocking because, on the day of the protest, he had his stone operation in Crest Hospital, Moradabad. It’s been a year since all this happened and after 8 months of the protest, they took my boy away,” said Mr. Ali*.
“My mistake was that I submitted my original papers to an officer in the Crime Branch who got transferred to some other place and never got those papers back. Then the police came and I was in jail for a month. I had two cases under my name, from two different police stations which were the biggest surprise, one from Kotwali Police Station and one from Thane Ganj. They simply said they have my name, they neither had my photo nor no other evidence of me being in the protest. I just got myself bailed and was asked to present myself in the court on 9th December 2020, now let’s see what happens next.” said Mr Qureshi* S/O Mr Ali.
“I came back from jail on 18th December 2020, I was there for 9 days. I wasn’t even at the protest, they just said they have my name. They neither had no witness nor the name of my mohalla (street). A constable came to my house 8 months ago asking about me, I told them that yes, I am Ayaz but the name of the street where I live is incorrect in FIR and that I didn’t go to the protest. They called me to the police station, I told them the whole story and asked them to get it confirmed, I said to trace my mobile location of that day as well. Afterwards, they came to my house one day and said I have to go with them to the police station as an FIR has been registered against me. So, I went with them, what else would I do? In the first FIR, they neither had the name of my Father and the correct address either. There are so many men named Ayaaz in Rampur, 3 boys named Ayaaz live in the same street as I do. They just took me because I am a little famous and a member of a political party. The case will go on now, dates will be given and whatever my lawyer will ask me to do, I shall do it.” says Ayaaz*.
(*As requested, names have been changed to hide the identities of the interviewees.)