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'Treated Like Terrorists, Spent 22 Days in Jail': Eight Muslim Men Released After Police Fail to Produce Evidence

In a video, the eight Muslim men were seen being brutally thrashed with a stick by uniformed cops inside a police station after protests broke out in UP's Saharanpur on June 10.
Delay in deciding on convicts’ mercy petitions: An unresolved malady

Representational Image. Image Courtesy:  The Indian Express

Lucknow: On the afternoon of June 10, 19-year-old Mohammad Ali, who works as a labourer at a sawmill, went to offer Friday prayer to a local mosque in Saharanpur. Little did he know that the day would change his life forever, and soon, he would not only be called a "terrorist" and "anti-national" but will have to spend the next 22 days in jail.

Ali claimed that his hand was broken in police custody. The officers allegedly beat him repeatedly despite him pleading not guilty and not having played any role in the violence following the protest on June 10 against the offensive remarks on Prophet Mohammad made by now suspended and expelled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal.

"I was begging the police officers to let me go as I am not involved in any stone-pelting, but they couldn't care less for even my broken hand," Ali told NewsClick, adding that he spent 22 days in jail despite committing no crime. "I was beaten up mercilessly, I was not given food, treated like a dreaded terrorist, and spent 22 days behind bars for a crime I did not commit. Who will bring back my lost days and remove the tag of anti-national and terrorist?" the distraught youth asked.

Ali was among eight Muslim men who were seen being brutally thrashed with a stick by uniformed police inside a police station on video after protests broke out in Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur last month. They have been cleared of all charges after police reportedly failed to produce evidence against them.

Asma, Ali's mother, said that his son was beaten up so severely that his hand had a fracture.

"That day the incident took place, my son was not present on the spot. He offered jumma namaz (Friday prayer) and left for his sister's house, which is far from the spot, but the police forcefully took my son into custody. They (cops) assured to release my son after checking CCTV footage but they kept him at the police station. Later in the evening, a video went viral where eight boys, including my son Ali, was seen beaten up by police," Ali's mother Asma told NewsClick. She added, "To prove my claim that my son was not involved in any violence, I submitted footage of CCTV cameras installed at places where Ali was present when the protests took place."

"My son got released from jail this morning," she added.

She went on to say, "The police and the government are leaving no stone unturned to harass Muslims of this country. During protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, thousands of Muslims, especially breadwinners, were arrested. The same is happening to us. We can hardly afford bread for two times. How will we survive if we pay hefty fees of lawyers and other expenses to free our children?" she asked.

On Monday evening, a local court in Saharanpur ordered the release of the eight persons who were arrested for the June 10 violence during the protest after police found no evidence against them. The court order, whose copy was accessed by NewsClick, reads that the inquiry of the Investigation Officer (IO) into the case against the eight accused, who the court released, was faulty, and they were produced in the court without any proper reasons or evidence.

In his order, the CJM observed that the prosecution could not submit before him any evidence which could prove the involvement of the accused in the violence.

The families of the eight persons had submitted CCTV footage to the police that showed that the accused were not present at the site of the violence on June 10. Following this, the police moved an application in the local court, saying they had no evidence against the eight persons.

"We asked the investigating officer to verify the claims made by the families of the eight accused. The IO examined the videos and photographs of the violence and found they were not present in any of them. We then moved an application in court under section 169 of the CrPC (seeks release of accused when evidence is deficient). The court then ordered their release," Additional Superintendent of Police (Saharanpur), Rajesh Kumar said.

Meanwhile, Saharanpur SSP Akash Tomar said, "All were arrested on the basis of suspicion. But due to a lack of concrete evidence, we filed an application in court. They have been released. The investigation is on against others accused."

In Saharanpur, hundreds of people gathered outside the city's main mosque after Friday prayers to protest against her remarks. The protests later took a violent turn. So far, police have arrested 62 people in Saharanpur, including the eight persons whose release order has been issued, and filed three FIRs in connection with the June 10 violence.

'Targeting of Innocent Muslim Youths'

Like Mohammad Ali, Mohammad Asif, too, became the victim of police's high-handedness that day. In June, he stepped out to offer Friday prayer. While returning from Jama Masjid side, two cops asked him to stop his scooter. "They did not ask anything. They took me to the police station and ensured release after matching the CCTV footage. There were already a few people there at the police station. But by the evening, 30-35 people were brought into the lock-up. Every ten people in different groups were sent to different rooms. Later, we were beaten up. They also passed casteist slurs while beating up. They seemed to get sadistic pleasure from humiliating us," said Asif who could not control his tears while speaking.

"The police claimed to have arrested my brother based on CCTV footage, but later, they told the court that there was no evidence against them. They should tell why they arrested Asif at the first place when there was no evidence, and if they arrested him, why did they beat him? Has the law given any authority to the police to start beating anyone without evidence, or was he targetted for being a Muslim?" asked Mohammad Arif, Asif's brother. Asif was released on Sunday after spending 23 days in jail for the crime he had not committed.

Babar Waseem, one of the lawyers representing the case associated with the Association of All India Minorities Advocates Welfare, told NewsClick that "innocent Muslim youths" are being targeted without any evidence. "What was the reason for beating them so badly when they had no proof?" he commented.

The lawyer further added that the CJM, in his verbal observations, said that the police had no right to beat the men in lock-up and the act was heinous.

Notably, Shalabh Mani Tripathi, a former TV journalist and now first-time MLA from Deoria, had first tweeted the video of police brutality, where seven to eight men were seen being mercilessly thrashed inside a room. Tripathi wrote on Twitter that the thrashing was a 'return gift' to the alleged rioters.

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