New Delhi: It has been six years since communal riots took place in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh which claimed 62 lives. While those responsible for the violence remain free, some of the eyewitnesses are being targeted as the case is going on in slow pace in the district court. At a time when Chief Minister Adityanath has been boasting about the ‘improved’ law and order in the state, in reality, the state apparatus appears to have weakened.
A prime example of the lack of fear of law in Uttar Pradesh is an eyewitness of the Muzaffarnagar communal riots, claiming that he was allegedly shot by the UP police in broad daylight. The eyewitness is Ikram, who works as a street vendor in Safipur Patti village of Budhana tehsil after he migrated from his native village Mohammadpur-Raisingh during the communal riots. His fearful family is now claiming that the UP police wants an ‘encounter’ of Ikram.
FORCED NOT TO BE EYE-WITNESS
Nafedin (81), Ikram’s father, who is also a prime witness in a murder case during the Muzaffarnagar communal riots in 2013, told Newsclick, "Along with my son, I am also a key witness to a murder of my neighbour Rahisuddin, who was killed in front of my eyes during the communal riots. My son Ikram is also a witness of the communal violence and arson in my village during which our house was ransacked by some local people. “
Nafedin also alleged that “since 2013, the Jat community has been threatening us to withdraw from the case and not be eyewitnesses. Though we migrated from our native village Mohammadpur-Raisingh due to fear and shifted to Safipur Patti, they are still harassing us, and even offering us bribes to be witnesses from their side or face dire consequences.” He said: “My grand-daughter is getting married on Tuesday but we are unable to arrange anything as the police is trying to create a panic situation by raiding our house. We do not have any crime record.”
On Monday, there was a court hearing on the murder of Rahisuddin and arson of Nafedin’s house. “I got a call from a police official saying that he has received a letter from the court and he is coming to meet me for interrogation. But he did not come," he added.
Narrating the incidence of alleged police firing at her father, Gulafsha, Ikram’s 16-year-old daughter told Newsclick: "On June 10 around 2 p.m, six to seven police personnel in police uniform, carrying guns and one in civil dress, named Nitin, knocked at our door while we were busy with our guests, as there was a reception ceremony in our neighbourhood. They asked us about Ikram’s whereabouts. When we asked them who they were, they repeatedly asked us “where is Ikram”. When we told them that he is upstairs, they went up and dragged him out by his collar and thrashed him in front of my relatives. When we intervened and pleaded, we were also beaten up mercilessly by 'male cops'. When my father tried to defend himself, they fired one bullet on his feet, but he skipped. They opened fired again in the air and later hit my father with a gun butt.”
The girl said when asked why they were arresting her father, the men said the Circle Officer (CO) had called him to the police station. She said when they were told that they could have simply asked Ikram to come to the police station with them, “they again started beating us and later called some female cops, who also punched us and hit us with belts.”
Gulafsha said when their neighbours, Intezar and Iliyas , intervened, the police arrested them and locked them up in police custody for a few hours. “Later, when we gathered at the police station, they were released, " she said.
"Gaonwale chheh-saat mahine se papa aur dada par bahut dabav bana rahe hain ki gawahi na do nahi to jaan se hath dho baithoge.” (Since 6-7 months, the villagers are putting a lot of pressure on my father and grandfather not to be eyewitnesses in the case otherwise they should be prepared to lose their lives.)
The communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar and its adjoining areas in August and September 2013 had claimed more than 60 lives while over 40,000 people were displaced. This is not the first case where a witness in the Muzaffarnagar communal riots has been attacked. On March 12, Ashfaque, a witness in the case, was shot dead in Khatauli. He had witnessed the killing of his two brothers -- Nawab and Shahid -- during the riots. He too had been threatened with dire consequences if he did not withdraw his case.
ACCOUNT OF RIHAI MANCH --- AN NGO
Rihai Manch, a human rights organization, which recently visited Muzaffarnagar, met the family members of Ikram.
Giving his account, Rihai Manch's general secretary, Rajiv Yadav, said: "I along with others went to the riot displacement area of Muzaffarnagar after I heard that police tried to do an encounter of a Muslim who is an eye-witness of the Muzaffarnagar communal riots. When I reached the spot, only women were there. They told me that a police officer named Nitin came in civil dress and asked about Ikram, and when they informed him that he is upstairs, he went on roof and dragged him by the collar. Many police personnel were standing outside the house. They suddenly started beating Ikram. When some neighbours opposed this, they open fire in the air and on Ikram also. He was saved as he ducked."
Yadav and some local residents also claimed that the police did not come with any warrant, yet arrested Ikram and took him to the police station.
"Since the last winter season, Ikram and his father Nafedin are under pressure as they are eyewitnesses to the murder of their neighbour Rahisuddin. Apart from Nafedin, there were 7-8 eyewitnesses, including Rahisuddin's son, but except Nafedin and Jamshed, everyone has turned hostile out of fear", he said.
Yadav alleged that the firing was not a “coincidence but a conspiracy and target killing”, asking “where it is written in the law that a police officer can shoot any person without any warrant, even he is in civil dress. When they fired bullets, had Ikram been killed, who would have been held responsible?”.
Also Read: How the Adityanath Govt has Reduced UP Police to an ‘Encounter’ Tool