New Delhi: The lynching of 28-year-old Akhlaq Khan in Haryana’s Panipat in August last year had made headlines. A native of Uttar Pradesh,Akhlaq has said he had gone to Panipat looking for work when he was brutally thrashed by a mob. His family alleged that was left on the railway tracks to die and his attackers severed his hand after they saw 786 tattooed on it confirming his Muslim identity.
Since then, Akhlaq’s family has kept the legal fight on, registering a case against his attackers, even as another case from the same night in August 2020 was filed against Akhlaq, alleging attempted sexual assault of a minor living close to the railway tracks of Kishanpura in Panipat.
As justice eludes his family, Akhlaq has been arrested and his three brothers have been detained.
On January 5, the Haryana Police, along with the Uttar Pradesh Police, arrested Akhlaq and detained his brothers Ikram, Ishwaq and Afzal from their house in UP’s Saharanpur. Ikram’s brother-in-law Nadeem has also been arrested under Section 151 of the Indian Penal Code, for allegedly disturbing peaceful assembly.
Recounting the arrest, their brother Abdul Razaq told NewsClick: “The police had come to our doorstep. My two brothers and my father were at home. The police told us that they are taking him to record the statement and that he (Akhlaq) will be sent back soon. Three of the brothers were detained, and the next day, Ikram’s brother-in-law, Nadeem, was also taken away by the police. The police claimed that our family was misbehaving with the police, but we were just trying to tell them that Akhlaq is not mentally stable and has not recovered from the lynching attempt physically.”
Further narrating the ordeal, Razaq said, who is in the capital, said: “I am fighting this battle alone here in Delhi, trying to get legal aid and media attention. His (Akhlaq’s) condition is slowly reeling back to normalcy but now this has happened. I am not even sure which jail he is in. My family's spirits are completely broken, all hope is fading away. My entire family is in jail.”
Akhlaq’s family members were in jail despite a provision for same day bail under the Section.
‘Cross Cases Common to Silence Victims’
Amid several arrests in Uttar Pradesh over the controversial anti-conversion law, the state remains volatile for minorities.
Lawyers feel there is a pattern to the cases of hate crimes, pointing the registering of cross cases against the victims themselves as a bid to “silence” them.
Speaking with NewsClick, Akram Akhtar Choudhary, Akhlaq’s lawyer, said: “Despite taking the statement of the family members, the police did not lodge a complaint against those who had thrashed Akhlaq. There was was no FIR initially against those who attacked him. Once the investigation began after many efforts, those who were accused of severing Akhlaq’s hand, filed a cross case against him, levelling charges of sexual assault. This FIR was filed on the September 7.
He said patterns of cross cases are common to ensure some sort of compromise, or when “relatives have been trapped in such cases to silence the victims.”
In another such case in Saharanpur, in 2016 Mustain Abbas, was killed, allegedly by Gau Raksha Dal (cow protection group) members in Kurukshetra, Haryana, after which the family stated that they were being threatened and victimised further.
“The police carry out one-sided investigation, to collect evidence against the victims, while shielding those accused of violence,” Akram said.