Friday, March 1, 2024

Police kill 23-year-old Muslim in UP: Family refutes theft accusation, encounter killing claims

A young Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh was killed by the cops on January 16. The police claimed he was an accused thief and was killed in an encounter, while the family insists he had nothing to do with theft and was cold-bloodedly murdered.

The incident took place when 23-year-old Matin, also known as Bilal or Billa, a resident of Khatauli, district Muzaffarnagar, left home as usual for Sabzi Mandi (vegetable market) to buy vegetables for his cart. However, he didn’t return home for lunch on that day.

According to the family, they received a phone call from an unknown number at around 3:00 PM on the same day, with Matin speaking on the other side, saying, ‘I have been shot by the police and is in the Medical Hospital Meerut,’ and the call got disconnected.

The family called the provided mobile number several times but didn’t receive a response, so they decided to go to the hospital to see for themselves.

Upon reaching the hospital, the family found Matin in a severely injured condition, lying on a hospital stretcher, surrounded by police officers.

“We were not allowed to meet him; the police didn’t let us,” said Sonu, the maternal uncle of Matin. He went to the hospital along with Abrar, Matin’s father, and younger brother Danish.

“We were told that they would let us meet Matin in an hour. They kept telling us this for the rest of the day and even on the other day until 7:00 PM when we learned that he was no more,” Sonu told Maktoob.

Sonu also informed Maktoob that the hospital staff took Matin’s father’s signature on some documents they hadn’t read before, as ‘they were not in their senses,’ while waiting outside the hospital.

On January 17, around 7:00 PM, the family members were informed by the medical staff and a police constable that Matin had succumbed to his injuries during treatment.

Allegedly, the family was not informed of the reason for his death, how he ended up in the hospital, and why he was receiving medical treatment.

However, Abrar claims that a doctor at the hospital told him that Matin had a bullet in the left side of his stomach, which had destroyed his intestines, and the unsuccessful operation was the reason for his death.

The hospital staff handed over Matin’s dead body to the family after postmortem, the report of which has not been provided to the family yet.

Matin’s father, Abrar, filed a police complaint at Mawana police station accusing the police of killing his son in a fake encounter on January 19. In the police complaint seen by Maktoob, Abrar stated, “All the family members were frightened off by the police when we tried to meet Matin in the hospital and were forced to leave. We kept waiting outside the hospital.”

Abrar claimed in the complaint, “My son has been killed by the police in a fake encounter. He was leading a normal life and was not involved in any case.” He told Maktoob, “No details of his treatment or postmortem report have been provided. The medical staff handed over his body to us on January 18 afternoon, and we performed his last rites the same day.”

Matin’s brother, Danish, alleges that when they examined Matin’s body before burying him, he had a deep wound on the left side of his stomach, and all his intestines were in inappropriate condition, substantiating that he was shot in his stomach.

The complaint given by the family against five police officers, including Sub Inspector Atul Kumar, three head constables Akasha Chaudhary, Deepak Kumar, Manjeet Singh, and Constable Govind Singh at Mawana Police station on January 19, has not been registered by the police yet. The family claims they have not received any copy of the First Information Report if registered.

However, the police have provided them with a general diary report (GDR) receipt—a record at the police station to maintain the number of complaints they receive. The general diary receipt in possession of Maktoob reads, “A complaint filed by one Abrar in connection with a case that happened on January 16, alleging the killing of his son by being shot by the police has been received at Mawana Police Station.”

“The complaint is taken in continuation of the already registered crime case number 25/24 under sections 307 (Attempt to murder), 279 (Rash driving), 427 (Mischief causing damage), and 411 (Dishonestly receiving stolen property) of the Indian Penal Code against four accused: Bilal, Abdul Samad, Osama, and Shoaib Ansari,” the GDR mentioned.

“Shot while trying to shoot at police”: Police

On January 7, Meerut Police at Railway Police Station registered an FIR for car theft against an unknown person based on a complaint by Karan Jain. He reported the theft of his Hyundai Alcazar car from outside his residence.

On January 16, the same day Matin was allegedly killed by Mawana police in a ‘fake encounter,’ Mawana police registered another FIR against four men: Bilal, Abdul Samad, Osama, and Shoaib Ansari, for their involvement in the car theft of Karan Jain. This information was provided by a Mukhbir, a police informer.

The four accused mentioned in this FIR are the same as those mentioned in the GDR provided to Matin’s family. According to the 13-page FIR registered by Mawana police on January 16, they alleged that they received “information” from the Mukhbir that these four men were involved in the car theft. The informer claimed to have seen them on a toll plaza at Meerut-Bijnor Highway.

The informer further informed the police that these four men might possess illegal weapons and were seeking an opportunity to incite a fatal incident. If the police had taken action in time, the fatal incident could have been avoided.

Acting on the information, Mawana police, along with the informer, reached the spot and discovered 4-5 men sitting in an i-20 car parked at the toll plaza on the highway. The registered FIR states that by the time the police reached the accused, the informer fled after revealing the identity of the accused.

“Finding themselves surrounded, 4-5 men (identified as the accused by the informer) started shouting ‘these are police officers’ and attempted to shoot at the police,” the police claim. “The bullet hit the police vehicle.”

The FIR mentions that the accused tried to flee in the car, but the police chased them for 1 km. Two accused managed to escape through sugarcane fields. One surrendered, and another was shot in the crossfire. The police realized that one of them was hit by their bullet when he shouted about getting injured.

The “injured” person was identified as Bilal, son of Abrar, and the one who surrendered was identified as Abdul Samad, son of Munna, both residents of Khatauli town in District Muzaffarnagar. The other two, Shoaib Ansari and Osama, are absconded, according to Abdul Samad.

Abdul Samad was taken to the police station with a constable, while Bilal (Matin) was transported to the hospital for treatment, as he was injured. The FIR notes that weapons and car number plates were recovered from them, as stated by Mawana police.

Maktoob approached Mawana Police Station to learn about the allegations made by the Matin family, how Matin ended up in the hospital, and how the police are connecting the ‘encounter’ with the case mentioned in the GDR.

Subhash Singh, Station House Officer at Mawana Police Station, told Maktoob, “Matin was accused in a car theft case and was killed in an encounter.” When asked why the family’s complaint hasn’t been registered, he explained, “They have been provided with the GDR, and a separate cross-case cannot be registered when there is already a case of theft against Matin.” He further mentioned, “A judicial inquiry has been initiated in the case.” When pressed about following due legal process for Matin’s car theft accusation, the officer stated, “In clashes like these, both sides are injured; it’s common in crossfires during encounters.”

“Fake case”: Family

Matin’s family refuted the police version: “He didn’t do anything except his work—selling vegetables and looking after his family. He didn’t even know how to drive a car, let alone steal one. What would a person gain by stealing a car?,” said Danish, Matin’s brother.

According to his family, Matin had, as usual, gone to sell his vegetables only in Khatauli and would return for lunch every day. However, on January 16, they received only his call, informing them about the incident and asking the family to come to the hospital.

“We went immediately; his body was lying unattended, surrounded by police officers on the stretcher. We were not allowed to meet or speak with him,” said Danish.

On the day of the encounter, Matin’s family says he had to restock the vegetables in his cart, brought by his brother.

Danish said, “The police are making my brother a scapegoat to cover their incompetencies. They are creating a fake case. He was killed by the police, and we want justice. Our entire family is bereaved.”

Matin was the eldest sibling followed by two younger brothers and sisters. He was the only major earning hand, survived by his parents, one-year-old twins, and a wife who is now a widow.

Loopholes 

It is noteworthy that this 13-page FIR was registered at 17:18 hours, which is 5:18 PM on January 16, the same day Matin called home from the hospital, informing them of being shot by the police at 3:00 PM.

It is also important to note that in their entire version of ‘car theft and encounter,’ the Mukhbir—upon whose information the encounter was carried out—escaped the spot. “A lot of people were present at the encounter spot, but nobody stepped up as an eyewitness,” as per the police’s FIR.

The police claimed that they shot Matin as he was trying to escape but only realized that he was shot by the bullet after he announced it. The police’s FIR, based on the Mukhbir’s information, was registered 2 hours after Matin called his family from the hospital.

Encounter guidelines in Law and Uttar Pradesh Government

The Indian Penal Code allows citizens, including law enforcement officers, the right to defend themselves. This extends to causing someone’s death, but specific conditions must be met for it to be considered lawful.

Legal experts and human rights defenders have repeatedly argued that police often misuse this right as an ‘extrajudicial tool’ to stage encounters. According to the law, encounters can either aim to injure and secure the arrest of an accused or involve shooting to kill in private defense.

The shooting of the alleged accused in Mawana follows a similar pattern, according to the police’s version of the story.

At least 183 persons were killed in incidents of alleged exchange of fire in the last six years of the Yogi Adityanath-led Bhartiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh, as reported by the police in April 2023.

The Supreme Court had sought a comprehensive report from the Uttar Pradesh government on these 183 “encounters” in which people were killed.

The UP government and the police have repeatedly denied these allegations, asserting that law and order have improved since the BJP came to power in 2017.

Moreover, critics of the state of law and order, along with opposition parties, have alleged that many of these encounters were “fake” and called for a high-level probe to uncover the facts. While Matin’s family is waiting to register their complaint and receive the post-mortem reports, they are seeking fair action and the filing of a murder case against the police officers involved in the alleged “Fake Encounter.”

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