On Friday, June 10, Ranchi police opened fire on a large crowd of Muslims gathered at Ranchi Main Road near the Daily Market to protest against suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Nupur Sharma’s derogatory remarks against prophet Muhammed.
At least two Muslim youth were fatally shot, and over 18 others were seriously injured. The deceased were identified as Mudassir Alam (14) of Islamnagar and Sahil (19) of Christia Nagar on the Mahatma Gandhi Road.
Mudassir was shot in the head and brought to RIMS, according to his family.
The injured are being treated at RIMS (Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences).
Afsar Alam is one of the injured victims, he received six bullet wounds, two of which remain in his body. Maktoob tried to call Afsar Alam’s family but they declined to speak.
According to reports a senior police officer has also suffered injuries.
Meanwhile, the district administration has said that internet access in the area is temporarily disabled.
“The bullet shot perforated Sahil’s kidney as he was returning from Iqra masjid after praying juma,” Sahil’s brother Faizan told Maktoob.
Despite the fact that Sahil was not a participant in the protest, police targeted him, claims Faizan.
“After Sahil was shot, he was rushed to the hospital by others who were present on the ground. We were informed of the incident when we received a phone call from a random number,” Faizan added.
According to the family, after Sahil died from his bullet wounds, the police pressured them to consent to a late-night postmortem. Sahil was buried on Saturday afternoon, as per Islamic practice.
“My brother’s killers should be punished as per law, we want justice,” Faizan demanded. “Why did the police open fire? They could have used water cannons or tear gas to disperse the crowd but they intentionally fired at the crowd,” he added.
Sahil was a second-year undergraduate student and used to work at a battery shop.
Mudassir Alam, 14 was shot in his head and succumbed to his injuries a few hours after. Mudassir’s family claims that they are not sure whether the police shot him or was it the miscreants who were present near the Hanuman mandir.
“Mudassir was only fourteen years old; he had just completed his class tenth board examination, and his results were due in ten days,” Mudassir’s uncle Shahid Ayyubi told Maktoob.
Ayyubi holds the government responsible for Mudassir’s death. He claims that instead of firing at the crowd, the district administration could have used tear gas or lathicharged it.
Ayyubi says that Mudassir was a kid and he didn’t deserve to die simply because he took part in a protest.
How did the peaceful protest turned violent?
On Friday, hundreds of protesters gathered near the Hanuman Mandir at the Ranchi main road, two protesting groups gathered from Doranda and other from Iqra Masjid, the groups were intended to demonstrate peacefully at Firayalal Chowk which is nearly 200 metre from the main road, before it became violent. Firayalal Chowk is considered to be an iconic protesting site in Ranchi.
Irfan Khan, state president of the Muslim League who was present at the protest site told Maktoob that when the procession reached the main road near Hanuman mandir, a Hindu group started pelting stones at the procession.
“Hindu groups were present on top of Hanuman Mandir, and one of the known miscreants was Bhairo Singh, a Hindutva leader who was also accused of attacking Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren’s convoy in 2021, Singh started firing from the top of Hanuman Mandir, and that’s when the procession became ugly,” Khan added.
According to Khan, the police shooting began after Singh fired at the crowd. He claims that Bhairo Singh fired at Mudassir from the top of the Hanuman mandir, and that police fired to save Bhairo Singh.
“First there was a light lathi-charge, then they started firing, it seemed like the firing was pre-planned,” Khan claims.
He says that the police could have used water cannon, tear gas to put an end to the protests.
“Police fired at nearly fifteen people, all of whom were young boys; why were police allowed to fire at an unarmed group?” Khan asks.
“Those young men were merely demonstrating to get the government to act against Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal. The administration exacerbated the entire incident, two boys have died, and one is fighting for his life,” Khan added.
Many shops closed their shutters on Friday in protest of Nupur Sharma’s statements about prophet Muhammed. The Muslims demanded Sharma’s immediate arrest.
Meanwhile, Irfan Ansari, Congress MLA from Jharkhand in a tweet slammed the Jharkhand government and said “the job of the police is to protect, not to shoot.”
Anish Gupta, deputy inspector general of police, told the media that the situation was under control and that heavy police forces had been deployed. Curfew was imposed under provisions of Section 144 in parts of Jharkhand capital Ranchi.
According to reports Ranchi deputy commissioner’s office said, “Prohibitory orders have been imposed from Sujata Chowk to Firayalal Chowk on the main road and 500 metres on either side of the road. Assembly of five or more people is prohibited in the area.”
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren in a statement to media said that the situation in Ranchi was worrisome. “We are all systematically falling prey to such forces, the consequences of which will have to be suffered by all of us. He also appealed to everyone to maintain peace, and said that the miscreants will not be spared.
Arshi Qureshi is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.