Lucknow: Justice is a distant dream for the seven Citizenship(Amendment) Act, 2019, (CAA) protesters allegedly shot dead by the police in western Uttar Pradesh’s Firozabad town on December 20, 2019.
After the police registered first information reports (FIRs) under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code in January 2020, the investigation moved at a snail’s pace. Finally, the investigators have filed the closure report concluding that the seven were killed by other protesters who fired from illegal weapons.
The town of bangles and glass factories, which lies to the east of Agra, was the scene of some of the most violent clashes between the police and reported the maximum number of casualties out of 24 in UP. Out of the 1,200-plus arrests and, at least, 5,500 detentions in the state, 13 were arrested and 250 detained in Firozabad.
Some of the protesters who were arrested and the lawyer representing a few of the deceased have alleged that the police did not record the sequence of events described by them and “concocted a story to protect the men in uniform”.
“Referring to their post-mortem reports, which mentioned that they died of bullet wounds, we argued in court that how can the police file FIRs under Section 304 instead of Section 302 (punishment for murder) of the IPC. Sensing trouble, the investigators, without wasting time, filed the closure report and concluded that the seven were shot dead by co-protesters,” advocate Saghir Khan, representing few of the deceased, told Newsclick.
Subsequently, Khan filed a protest petition in the court of the chief judicial magistrate, who ordered a reinvestigation into one of the cases. “Let’s see what happens now,” Khan said adding that the police registered a separate FIR and arrested 14 people after the court pressured them to act due to their “botched-up” investigations.
Among the protesters who were arrested is Ahmed Nabi, a 52-year-old cancer patient who finally received chemotherapy due on December 28, 2020, in the first week of March 2021 after the court’s intervention.
Ahmed, who was diagnosed with stage 2 oral cancer, was arrested on December 20, 2019, when he was reportedly going to his crockery shop, his brother Vakil told Newsclick.
Refuting the allegation, Firozabad superintendent of police Sachindra Patel told Newsclick that Ahmed was arrested from the spot and was part of the protest that turned violent.
“On December 23, the special court ordered the Firozabad district administration to admit him to the hospital but the police did not act. The courts were closed from December 25, 2020, to January 1, 2021. They [the police] violated a court order to ensure that he missed his chemotherapy due on December 28, 2020,” Vakil alleged.
However, the police denied Vakil’s allegation. “We complied with the court order,” Patel said refusing to comment on the other allegations. “The matter is sub judice,” he said. Vakil further alleged that when he asked the police about his brother’s medical condition, they said: “We will treat your cancer here.” When he met his brother at the police station on the night of December 21, he was “barely conscious”. The police forced Ahmed to sign on a blank paper and made him hold a country-made pistol to get his fingerprints on it, Vakil alleged.
When the courts reopened in January last year, Ahmed was admitted to a hospital in Agra with multiple fractures. “We moved the Allahabad High Court for bail which was granted in January-end. We had to take him in that condition to Jaipur for chemotherapy. He finally received the chemo when he was able to move in March,” Vakil said
CAA had triggered protests across the country with much of the violence occurring in north India, especially in states like UP. Mohammad Azad Khan, the owner of a small timber mill in Firozabad, has “CCTV cameras installed at the gate”. “I could see everything that was happening on the road,” he told Newsclick.
“A few women were purchasing wood from me when the situation started getting tense in the afternoon. After ensuring that both Hindu and Muslim women went back safely to their areas, I locked my mill from inside and sat in my office,” Khan added.
Anti-CAA protests and the subsequent police crackdown is a major election issue among Muslims in Firozabad, which will vote in the first phase of Assembly elections, starting from February 10. Muslims have a sizeable population in Firozabad (urban) constituency, which is represented by Bharatiya Janata Party’s Manish Asija. Though Asija is said to be an accessible leader popular among both Hindus and Muslims, he is under pressure because the directions to quell the protests were issued from Lucknow.