A police constable was beaten on Friday evening in Vadodara city allegedly by the religious hardliners of the majority community.
Sanjay Kharat, DCP, Zone-3 of Vadodara City informed NewsClick on Saturday that an FIR has been registered. “We have taken cognisance of the matter…we are investigating,” said Kharat. However, he had no idea about the arrests made in the case.
The victim, Arif Ismail Shaikh (44), said that he was attacked without any provocation when he was travelling back to home at around 8.30 pm. “I made a mistake by not covering my face this time,” said Shaikh, adding that he usually covers his face while stepping out of his home. Shaikh is a constable with the Gujarat Police.
A copy of the FIR was accessed by NewsClick. However, R S Baria, the investigating officer as well as in-charge of Panigate Police Station (PS), could not be reached for a comment.
The FIR was registered under Sections 323, 143, 147, 504 and 506 (2) of the IPC. In his complaint, Shaikh said: “As I was heading back to my home after concluding my day duty scheduled at Pratapnagar headquarters, an unknown young person crossing the road near Shiv Shakti Mohalla locality waved his hand to me. After I asked him calmly to cross the road, he came towards me and started addressing me with the words targeting my religion.”
Attackers threw derogatory comments related to his physical look, “Oh, Bodeya!” and “Oh, Muslim!” The road rage further took a communal shape. “Five to seven persons from a nearby settlement, adjacent to petrol pump, joined him and they all continued beating me. They pulled me by beard. I was punched in face and they tried to strangle me,” the FIR read. According to the complainant, the attackers said: “Aav fatko aaje ane patavi daiye (Let’s finish this person today),” and “Miya bao fati gaya chho (Muslims have forgot their limits)”.
Arif said that the attackers took his wallet away and disappeared from there as “conscious people” rushed to save him from the attackers. The attackers are said to be instigated by Shaikh’s Muslim appearance, i.e. his beard or Lihyah.
The FIR was registered after hours of tussle. A lawyer, who was present at the Panigate police station, told NewsClick on the condition of anonymity that the officers at the station were initially reluctant to register the complaint in detail against the accused. He alleged, “The police writer was trying his best to simplify the incident, thus, to make it sound like a common quarrel or fight,”. He further added that “the simplification of it would omit the communal colour the attack, helping the accused to go away easily”. “It is a case of mob attack and hate crime. Also, it does invoke some special sections of IPC for hurting religious sentiments,” he said. “It was sad to see ‘one of them’[referring to Arif] being treated differently by their own system and people,” he said referring to the police apathy.
A few of the dozen people gathered outside the police station told NewsClick that the local news agency declined to run this story when approached.
Leading English and Gujarati newspapers in the city too have avoided giving it any space, we learnt; we also independently confirmed this.
“While it is not for the first time Vadodara has experienced the public hatred for minority, the attack on a Muslim police officer shows how extreme the display of xenophobia could be. This attack would further degrade the faith Muslims maintained in spite of all odds in the state’s law-and-order machinery,” told a local social activist, requesting anonymity.
A legal practitioner based in Vadodara, who is following the development in this particular case, has alleged that the police didn't include sections like 153A of the IPC, which are basically applicable in those cases where the acts of the accused are detrimental to religious or communal harmony and aim to "promote enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc."
"In that case, the perpetrators are most likely to walk free as Gujarat also doesn't have any special law against the 'incitement to mob lynching' in place," he added. He didn't want to be named.
Also, Section 307 which is for the attempt to murder was not included despite the protest at the police station. Sources alleged that the officials at the Panigate police station were constantly being dictated “by a senior official” over phone about "what to write and what to exclude" in the FIR.
Arif told NewsClick that he reached his home at 2 am after being treated at the hospital. He returned to his duty on Saturday. He declined to comment any further on the issue. Arif is bound by the code of conduct.
*Story has been updated.