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Ranchi Violence: Anonymous Mobilisation, Provocation, ‘Biased’ Police Action — The Complete Story

Tarique Anwar |
NewsClick investigated the incident that erupted on June 10, resulting in two casualties during a protest in response to the Prophet remark row. The families of the deceased say no FIR has been registered yet on their complaints.
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This is the first part of a two-part exclusive series on the communal violence in Ranchi on June 10, and its aftermath. The writer spoke with members of both the communities involved, administration/police representatives, and local observers/journalists. Videos and posts on social media in the run-up to the violence have been reviewed and quoted but their authenticity cannot be independently verified by NewsClick.

Ranchi (Jharkhand)/New Delhi:Two young men were gunned down in Ranchi on June 10 during a protest against offensive remarks on Prophet Muhammad made by now-suspended ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, but no first information report (FIR) has so far been registered based on written complaints filed by the families of the two deceased boys. Notably, registration of a case is a prerequisite legal process for an investigation to begin.

Two persons — 15-year-old Mudassir and 21-year-old Sahil Ansari — were shot, allegedly by the police, and later succumbed to their injuries while undergoing treatment. Eight others, including a policeman, who received bullet injuries, are currently being treated at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi. One of them is said to be in a critical condition and has been shifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi.

Mudassir’s father, Mohammad Pervez Alam, 38, in his complaint dated June 12 at the Daily Market police station, has said in his complaint that when the protesters, raising slogans, reached the Hanuman temple, one Bhairav Singh (a local BJP functionary), Shashi Sharad Karan, Sonu Singh and others present on the roof of the temple started firing and throwing stones too.

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“On June 10 at around 3:30 pm, I was busy selling fruits on cycle cart at Daily Market when I spotted a crowd belonging to the Muslim community moving towards the taxi stand, Hanuman temple, from the direction of Urdu Library. They were shouting slogans. As the protesters reached the Hanuman temple, my 15-year-old son Mudassir (now deceased) also joined the crowd. Suddenly, Bhairav Singh (a local BJP functionary), Shashi Sharad Karan, Sonu Singh and others, who were present on the terrace of the temple, began throwing stones and spraying bullets on the crowd,” he alleged in his complaint, adding that the “Muslim protesters too pelted stones towards them in retaliation”.

This led to a chaos and a stampede-like situation in the Daily Market area, he said in the complaint,a copy of which has been accessed by Newsclick.

“The policemen present there started firing indiscriminately, targeting the Muslim side, with AK-47 and pistols. In the stampede caused by the continuous firings by the police force and from the temple’s terrace, a bullet hit my son in his head and he fell to the ground — bleeding profusely. He was rushed to RIMS (Rajendra Institute of Medical Science) where he succumbed to injuries,” his complaint added.

The policemen who were engaged in firing indiscriminately, according to the complaint, include Laxman Yadav (bodyguard of the Lower Bazaar police station’s in-charge), Ashish Kumar Mahto (bodyguard of the deputy superintendent of police of PS Sadar), Gaurav (bodyguard of the Chutia police station’s in-charge), Sailesh Kumar (in-charge of the Kotwali police station), bodyguards of the city superintendent of police, among others, he goes on to allege.

The police firing, alleged the complaint, was “targeted with an intention to kill the Muslim protesters”. “While Hindutva activists were firing on the agitators from the terrace, they were also instigating the cops to going ahead with the killing spree”.

Pervez Alam claimed in the complaint that his son was killed in the firing either by the police or from from the temple rooftop.

Sahil’s father Mohammad Afzal, too, lodged a police complaint on June 11 at the Daily Market police station, alleging that his son had gone to the Main Road (Mahatma Gandhi Road, which has Urdu Library, Hanuman temple and the Daily Market on two sides) for some personal work when he got injured in police firing and later died during the treatment.

“Suddenly, police firing began and people started running. While running for safety, my son received an abdominal gunshot. We took him to RIMS where he breathed his last during treatment,” his complaint stated, calling for an impartial probe and bringing the guilty police officials to book.

Sahil Ansari

Sahil Ansari.

Sahil’s death certificate issued by RIIMS also mentioned that he died in police firing.

At least 25 FIRs have been filed so far; and interestingly, all of them are against Muslims protesters. However, the two counter-complaints lodged by the parents of the deceased have not been turned into an FIR as yet.

Notably, the injured protesters who are undergoing treatment have officially been arrested.

THE FIRs AT A GLANCE

NewsClick got access to 23 of the 25 FIRs filed. What is worth noticing here is that these are based on complaints by the police, journalists, businessmen and a temple priest, but not a single FIR has been registered so far on the complaints of the families of the deceased or the injured protesters.

Circle Officer Amit Kumar Bhagat, in the main FIR, alleged that he was on patrol duty on June 10 when he witnessed a protest rally being taken out taken without permission. He alleged in his complaint, which is the basis of the FIR, that the crowd soon became aggressive. He said the police tried to stop the protestors, but the crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 people gathered near Hanuman Mandir retaliated with stones.

Upadraviyon dwara poorva niyojit yojna anusar main road sthit Hanuman Mandir ko bhi lakshit kar dharmik danga failane ke uddeshya se lagataar patharbazi ki jaane lagi(miscreants, in a pre-planned manner, aimed at instigating religious riots, targeted the Hanuman temple at the Main Road and continued stone-pelting),” read the FIR.

It further alleged, “Is karam mein ugra bheed evam upadrawiyon dwara police bal par jaan maarne ki niyat se lagataar kai round firing bhi ki gayi…. Unmaadi bheed mein shamil kai navyuvakdyuti mein karyarat police karmiyon ko pakad kar unke sarkari hathiyaar chheennne ka prayas bhi kiya gaya(The mob and the miscreants, in this process, opened several rounds of fire at the police force in an attempt to kill them…many in the crowd even tried to snatch weapons of police personnel).”

Sources in the state police claimed that at least 70-80 rounds were fired by the protesters, but they did not explain why no bullet hit any cop if these were indeed fired to “kill them”.

Did the police or its forensic team recover empty cartridges of any unauthorised ammunition that was fired at them by the protestors? “Let’s wait for the investigation to get over. Our chargesheet will answer all your queries,” they said, when NewsClick asked them.

“After mild force to deter the mob and attempts by the Deputy Commissioner and the Senior Superintendent of Police to pacify the protesters with talks failed to yield any result”, the FIR noted, “...controlled air firing and use of force was ordered, which somewhat succeeded in dispersing the mob”.

“Five rounds of tear gas (shells were fired) and several rounds of air firing was carried out. And then a lathi charge was done. It helped the police control the crowd,” said the FIR.

Interestingly, the FIR noted that after the violence was controlled, “no one injured was found at the spot”.

Though NewsClick does not vouch their authenticity, video footage, accessed by this publication, contradicts the police theories. In the video clips, men in uniform can be seen indulging in targeted firing and protesters can be seen collapsing and bleeding profusely.

A few clips also show the protesters and policemen engaged in heavy brick-batting. A video footage also shows a few cops and civilians taking shelter in the temple to save themselves.

Registered at the Daily Market police station, the case has been filed under various IPC (Indian Penal Code) sections, including for rioting, attempt to murder, assault on public servant and acts intended to outrage religious feelings in addition to the Arms Act and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.

After the violence, another FIR was registered at the Daily Market police station based on ASI Sumit Bhagat’s complaint on illegal protests. A third FIR was registered at the same station against four persons for performing ‘kirtans’ even after CrPC Section 144 was invoked in the area.

The second FIR was registered after the violence at the same Daily Market police station on the complaints filed by Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Sumit Bhagat. This is also with regard to the “illegal protest”.

Soon after the violence, a ‘kirtan’ was performed in front of the temple even after Section 11 of the Cr.P.C. (which prohibits the assembly of four or more people) was invoked in the area.

The third has been lodged in the same police station against four persons for violating prohibitory orders.

Based on the complaints of ASI Madan Mishra, a fourth FIR was filed at Lower Bazar police station against 17 named accused. It stated that the mobs shouted slogans and clashed with police personnel.

Interestingly, the FIR is ad verbatim identical to the case at Daily Market police station.

The Lower Bazaar police station has another FIR, which is fifth in the row. Based on a complaint by Sub-Inspector Jitendra Singh Bist, it alleged the mob — in addition to attacking the police force — also targeted civilians who were passing through the area.

“The mob launched a life-threatening attack on the occupants of one black vehicle with a Bihar government number plate. The glasses of the vehicle were broken, but the people inside were somehow rescued,” the FIR stated.

The sixth and seventh FIRs are based on complaints of journalists who alleged their vehicles were damaged and one laptop was stolen in the violence.

A total of 13 FIRs have been registered on complaints by local businessman and residents who alleged the mob indulged in stone-pelting, firing and molestation of women.

One FIR has been registered on the complaint of the priest of the Hanuman temple.

In connection with a separate incident that took place in the Sujata Chowk area around 8 p.m on June 10 in Ranchi, one FIR was registered on June 12 at Chutia Police Station based on the complaint of two Muslim residents who alleged that they were beaten up when they had gone to collect pizza.

Mohammad Zeeshan Ashfi, 24, said in his complaint that he and his brother Faizan, 20, had gone to a pizza outlet at Sujata Chowk around 8 p.m on June 10 when they were suddenly attacked by a group of 20-25 people carrying lathis after asking their names.

The complainant alleged that the mob was raising ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans.

HOW MUDASSIR, SAHIL WERE KILLED?

NewsClicks poke to the two sides, journalists who are continuously reporting on the incident, police officials, legislators and government representatives. Apart from allegation and counter allegations, denial and acceptance, there appeared to be a consensus on a few points: serious lapses on part of the police, inadequate deployment, mobilisation through social media, cops opened indiscriminate and targeted fire without any warning and some sort of provocations by a few journalists and extremist groups.

There is still no clarity on who gave a call for the protest after Friday congregational prayer, who mobilised such a huge crowd — which is estimated at over 5,000, how the demonstration turned violent, how a confrontation between protesters and police turned into a Hindu-Muslim conflict, how a temple came into the picture, why the police opted to go for a targeted firing instead of using rubber bullets, water cannons and firing live bullets into the air and below the waist to disperse the mob?

The allegations and counter allegations are unconvincing and fail to add up. The police have its own story, which squarely blames the protesters and their “unlawful assembly” for the violence.

Even after 15 days of the incident, there is mourning in the rented house of Pervez Alam whose only son, Mudassir Alam, 15, was killed allegedly in the police firing on June 10. The family lives at Ranchi’s Hindpiri — a dense residential area known as a lively shopping hub in Mahatma Gandhi Main Road.

Mudassir Alam

Mudassir Alam

Mudassir’s mother, Nikhat Perween, sitting on a chair, starts crying whenever journalists, relatives and friends come. “Where has my babu (son) gone?” she keeps repeating, asking “Why did they kill my son? How can I live without him?”.

Mudassir’s paternal uncle Mohammad Shahid Ayyubi told reportersone that his nephew was a promising student, and his standard 10 result now stands testimony to the fact.

He passed the board examination by scoring 66% marks. As per the results declared on June 21 by the Jharkhand Academic Council, Mudassir, a student of Little Angels’ High School Charghrwa in Ranchi’s Pundag district, scored 333 out of 500 marks. He emerged as one of 225, 854 students who got first division out of 373,892 students who cleared the grade 10 examination.

“Like every day, he went that day also with the cycle cart to help his father who sells fruits in the Daily Market,” said Ayyubi, narrating the turn of events that unfolded the fateful day.

“There was a chaos as the procession came close to the market. The crowd was huge. Even his father failed to realise when he slipped into the crowd. Suddenly, stone-pelting began and firing by the police ensued. Everyone was running for life. My nephew got shot. He had been shot in the head. The police were firing at people as if they were terrorists. There are many ways to drive away the crowd, but bullets were being fired with the intention of killing the protesters. And that’s why, bullets were fired above the waist,” he told NewsClick over the phone.

A photo of the deceased clicked after the post-mortem was done, shows injuries and absence of bone of his head’s parietal region. Forensic experts suggested injury might have been caused using a lethal weapon from a distance.

About half a kilometre away from Hindpiri, is Karbala Chowk where Mohammad Sahil’s family lives. The 22-year-old, who used to work as a salesman in a mobile accessories shop in the Daily Market, also succumbed to bullet injuries he had received allegedly in the police firing while undergoing treatment.

His parents are in a state of shock and unable to speak to anyone.

Sahil’s elder brother Mohammad Saqib, 24, said the Daily Market was closed on Friday in protest against the derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammad. But Sahil had to go there after Friday prayers to arrange a consignment of cell phone accessories that had arrived that day.

“He along with his friend, who works in another cell phone store, went to the market. In the meantime, violence broke out. As they were hurriedly leaving the area, he was caught in the police firing. A bullet entered his body from near the waist. He died in the hospital just two and half hours after he suffered the injury,” he told NewsClick.

The deceased was second among three brothers and one sister. His father Mohammad Afzal drives an auto to earn a living.

Saqib alleged the Daily Market police station officially received their complaint after making a lot of hue and cry. In his complaint lodged on June 11, Afzal has claimed that his son died of police bullets.

The families of the deceased also complained that no representative of the government had visited them till date to meet and offer condolences. They demanded that the incident be investigated under the supervision of a sitting or retired judge of the Jharkhand High Court, as they don’t have faith in the police probe.

“It must be investigated impartially at whose behest, the bullet was fired indiscriminately with an intention to kill,” they demanded.

Asked why no government representative so far visited the deceased family, the Jharkhand Minority Welfare Minister Hafizul Hasan Ansari, a Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MLA from Madhupur in Deoghar district, said the allegation was not true.

“Our Rajya Sabha MP Mahua Maji had gone to meet the deceased family. We have assured an impartial investigation and all possible help to the victims. Those who are injured are being treated at government expenses at the RIMS. Critically injured Nadeem Ansari, 24, has been airlifted to Delhi for better treatment. His condition is improving,” the legislator, who is also a minister of sports youth affairs, told NewsClick over the phone.

When asked about the police action and alleged one-sided police action, he said both taking out a procession and police firing on the protesters were “wrong”.

“The government has constituted a high-level investigating team to ensure an impartial probe. We request people to depose before the investigators so that the truth can come out and the guilty can be brought to book,” he added.

But his claim with regard to the MP’s visit was contradicted by locals who said she did not voluntarily came to visit the family but were called for registration of grievances against the government.

“After the government failed to take stern action against the policemen and their officers for carrying out and ordering the firing, the aggrieved people had invited the parliamentarian to register their protest,” Nadeem Khan, a local activist and an office bearer of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or CPI (ML) told Newsclick.

He said the stand taken by the government and the High Court was better than the government in this case. “At least, the governor and the court raised questions on the police firing and sought a report from the DGP,” he added.

CPI (ML) legislator Vinod Kumar Singh, who represents Giridih’s Bagodar constituency, too raised questions on the government’s response to the incident.

“The incident describes how hostile the state police is towards minorities and other underprivileged groups. It appears that the bullets were fired at the protesters with a sole aim to teach them a lesson. Even if we assume that the protest turned violent, was it the only way to deal with it? Will the police kill itsown people?” he told Newsclick.

He said though the Hemant Soren government, which has “our support only against the BJP”, has dealt with police brutality against tribals “more sensibly” if compared to the previous government, the response to this incident is “surely disappointing and worrisome”.

“We demand that an impartial investigation be carried out and the guilty be punished in accorded with the law,” he added.

CID TO TAKE OVER PROBE

Jharkhand Director General of Police (DGP) Neeraj Sinha has ordered an investigation by the Crime Investigation Department (CID) into the June 10 violence along the Mahatma Gandhi Road (also called the Ranchi Main Road) during protests against offensive remarks on Prophet Mohammed made by two now-axed BJP spokespersons — Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal.

The order issued on June 24 evening is based on the FIR lodged by the magistrate on deputation (circle officer Amit Kumar Bhagat) at the Daily Market (the epicentre of the violence) police station.

“A CID probe has been ordered as per the guidelines of the National Human Rights Commission for any killing in police action. It would be separate from the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe,” Amol V. Homkar, inspector general (operations) and spokesperson of the Jharkhand police, told NewsClick.

The investigation, he said, will soon be started and a report will be submitted on other grounds including — statements of witnesses, statements of injured policemen and technical evidence.

Chief Minister Hemant Soren too has constituted a high-level probe team, comprising senior IAS officer Amitabh Kaushal, who is secretary of the disaster management, and Additional DGP (operations) Sanjay Lathkar, on June 11.

The probe panel was asked to submit its report within a week of its constitution, but it has sought more time to present its findings.

When NewsClick sought to know details of the incidents that led to the violence, the delay in registering FIRs on the complaints of the deceased families, total arrests and detentions so far, the IG (Operations) Homkar asked this correspondent to get in touch with Ranchi Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Anish Gupta as he was supervising the investigations.

When contacted, Gupta told NewsClick to get in touch with Ranchi Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Surendra Kumar Jha who referred to Ranchi SP (City) Anshuman Kumar. Several attempts to reach out to Kumar failed as he never responded and forwarded repeated calls to his office.

The police, according to sources, have pressed various charges against 22 persons booked by name and hundreds of unidentified persons in the 25 FIRs registered so far. Majority of the FIRs, the sources said, are registered at Hindpiri and Daily Market police stations in the city.

(To be continued)

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