Saturday, December 9, 2023

2019 UP Massacre: No FIR in son’s killing, a widow in Kanpur fights police impunity

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On 20 December 2019, the second week of passing India’s anti-Muslim citizenship law, mass shooting and police crackdown happened across Uttar Pradesh killing at least 23 Muslims. It is arguably the biggest single-day carnage in recent times. UP government systematically undermined the massacre by sieging the Muslim communities with internet shutdown, mass incarnation and brute human rights violation. Maktoob initiates a revisit to the Massacre and examines the life of survivors. We urge our readers to help us reach the victims. 

Mehwish Asim

“I can undoubtedly say it was the police’s bullet that killed my son”,  Najma Bano recalls her son’s final words. A year after 23-year-old Mohammed Aftab Alam was killed during the police crackdown on CAA protestors in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, anguish remains in Najma Banu’s teary eyes when she reveals the last moments with her son.

“My son was severely bleeding. He told us he was shot by the police”.

That Friday, 20 December 2019, Aftab Alam, a college dropout turned mason, was on his way back from his father’s grave in Kanpur’s Eidgarh cemetery when he walked into a clash between anti-CAA protestors and police. In order to save himself, Aftab found a hiding spot behind some stairs. But it took not long for police to spot him.

“He was dragged out and shot at his chest,” claims Bano, a widow.  

Najma Bano and her younger son, Mohammed Shadab. Photo: Mehwish Asim

At least Twenty-three Muslims were killed across Uttar Pradesh on 19 and 20 December 2019 in the pretext of crushing anti-CAA protestors. Killing spree took off on 19 December, with 32-year old Mohammad Wakeel shot dead when he stepped out to get ration. 

Apart from deaths, dozens suffered bullet injuries and hundreds were detained including minors. Many reports alligate horrendous human rights violation by state apparatus during the massacre. Killings happened in nine cities, which were all under internet shutdown, anticipating unrest. 

Muslims across India came out on the streets since December first week after anti-Muslim citizenship law was passed by the parliament. States governed by Bharatiya Janata Party used force to crush protest resulting in a massacre in December and an orchestrated pogrom in February – both targeting Muslims. 

Along with Aftab Alam, 25-year-old Mohammed Saif and Raees Khan were killed in Kanpur. Kins of both family also hold police responsible for the killings. All three were residents of Munshi Purwa, a Muslim majority locality. 

UP Director General of Police OP Singh, immediately after the incident, claimed that they did not ‘fire a single bullet’. But visuals of police personals firing at protestors collapse police claims. 

The Caravan magazine reported that police shot at least 12 men in and around Eidgah Maidan, about a kilometre away from Aftab’s house.

Police firing instigated violence in which the city’s Muslim localities were stormed and raided by police and Police Mitras, a Hindutva right-wing outfit which accompanied police.   

“We were not directly informed about his death,” says Mohammed Shadab, Aftab’s younger brother. “ We came to know about this through local media. We were outside the operation theatre and doctors told us he was getting treated”. All the injured were taken to government-run Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital, popularly known as Hallet Hospital were doctors were wasted golden hours. 

“My brother was lying there and no treatment was given to him,” says Shadab. Local leaders had to pressure the hospital administration to start treating the critically wounded. 

Aftab died around 12 in the night, about nine hours after he was shot by the police.

Death certificate of Afthab.

Justice obsolete, but the fight will go on 

Aftab, the middle child among five siblings, lost his father seven years ago. Both his elder brothers are working in Hyderabad. Shadab and a younger sister remain at home with Bano, who is exhausted, fighting to file her complaint to the police.

“He was not involved in any protest,” Bano contested police claim. Aftab, a bachelor student at Halim Muslim college had to drop out after his father’s death to support the family. Aftab took daily wages work and on the day of his death, his plan was to collect his payment. 

Bano believes her grievance will not be heard by BJP led Yogi’s UP government. The Chief Minister has made hate speech against Muslims. The BJP leader pointed at protestors for instigating violence.  

“They want us to remain silent about what they did to our son,” says Bano. immediately after the incident Bano tried to lodge a complaint at Allahabad but failed. All her efforts, like the other two victims in Kanpur, went all vein, as no complaints are filed even after a year. 

Regardless of all odds, the 55-year-old mother is pledged to fight for justice for her son and find the culprits. 

Mehwish Asim is pursuing her undergraduate in Urdu from Aligarh Muslim University.

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