UP: Muslim Youth from Kasganj Dies in Police Custody, Family Alleges Torture Death
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Lucknow: In yet another case of alleged custodial death in Uttar Pradesh, a Muslim youth arrested by the state police on suspicion of eloping with a Hindu woman allegedly died in the Sadar police station in Kasganj district on November 8.
The family of the deceased — identified as Altaf (22), from Nagla Syed Ahroli of Kasganj — has alleged that he was tortured by police in lockup, which led to his death. Police, however, claimed that the accused killed himself using the drawstring of his jacket’s hood when he went to the lockup washroom.
Botre Rohan Pramod, Kasganj Superintendent of Police (SP) claimed that Altaf was called to the police station on Tuesday morning for interrogation in connection with a complaint of elopement.
"Altaf, son of Chahat Miyan, was brought to the police station for questioning in connection with an episode of 363 (kidnapping) and 366 (kidnapping with the compulsion to marry) of the Indian Penal Code in Kotwali Kasganj. During the interrogation, he sought permission to go to the washroom. He was sent to the washroom inside the lock-up. There, he sought to strangle himself by tying the string of the hood of his jacket to a tap. When he did not come out for a long time, the policemen went inside and took him to CHC at Ashok Nagar, Kasganj in an unconscious state, where he died during treatment," said Pramod in a video statement released on Twitter on Wednesday.
The SP said that the 22-year-old’s body has been sent for a post-mortem, and five officials have been suspended for prima facie negligence during the investigation.
However, Altaf's father Chahat Miyan alleged that it was a murder by the police and demanded a high-level inquiry into the matter.
Accusing the police of killing his son in police custody, Chahat Miyan said, "Kasganj police landed at my place around 8 PM on November 8. My son was picked up from home on the suspicion of eloping with a girl. Hearing the allegation made by police, I myself handed over my son Altaf to the police. The police had ensured to release him after an hour but he did not return even after several hours. Only the news of his death news reached us.”
“When I went to the police outpost this morning to enquire about him, they humiliated me and threw me out," said an inconsolable Chahat Miyan adding that "My son was physically fit. How could he have died unless the police tortured him?”
The deceased’s father told NewsClick, "He (Altaf) was a tile fitter labourer and he was working in a house. According to the police, a girl from the same family went missing for the last few days. The family members of the girl complained to the police against him and the police took away my son. Merely on suspicion of eloping with the girl, they killed him. He was not produced before a magistrate when he was picked up. He was kept continuously in the police lock-up and was killed later.”
The deceased’s father further added that when he challenged the police's claims that Altaf hung himself from a string tied to a tap, he did not get any satisfactory answers.
"We repeatedly asked the officials to tell us how Altaf died and where the washroom was located but nothing was told. My son was tall enough and it is a completely baseless allegation that he tried to strangle himself from a tap which is usually at the height of two-three feet. They also refused to give the CCTV footage which is installed in the police station," he claimed.
Altaf's mother Fatima is unstable ever since she learned about the death of her son allegedly in police custody. Whenever she regains consciousness, she cries remembering her son. According to Fatima, when policemen came to her house to arrest Altaf, he was about to start his dinner but they (police) did not let him eat and took him away.
Meanwhile, after the incident occurred in Kasganj district, the village has been turned into a fortress in order to maintain peace and harmony. A strong police presence has been ensured at the road leading to Nagla Sayed Ahroli village in Kasganj to counter attempts to disturb the law and order.
'HIGH-HANDEDNESS' OF UP POLICE
On October 21, a similar case of “high-handedness” of the Uttar Pradesh police came to light when a sanitation worker belonging to the Valmiki community in Agra district, who was suspected of stealing Rs 25 lakh from a police station warehouse, allegedly died in police custody during the recovery of the amount.
A First Information Report (FIR) on charges of murder was lodged against unidentified persons after his family members alleged that he was beaten up mercilessly soon after being picked up for interrogation, raising doubts on the police statement.
Following the FIR, five police personnel, including a Sub Inspector (SI) and Inspector who had gone for the recovery, were suspended for negligence and an inquiry committee was constituted.
In another case, a special police team (SWAT) in Ambedkar Nagar was booked for murder after a man from Azamgarh died in police custody after being allegedly picked up for questioning in a case of theft in March. His family alleged police torture in custody.
Later, Ambedkar Nagar Superintendent of Police (SP) Alok Priyadarshi had ordered the suspension of seven policemen, including the SWAT Station House Officer (SHO) and others, and ordered a magisterial inquiry into the death of Ziauddin.
Over the last few years, the state of Uttar Pradesh has recorded the highest number of custodial deaths as compared to the rest of India, according to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) data.
In 2020-21 (up to February 28), there were 398 custodial deaths (including three deaths in police custody and 395 deaths in judicial custody) in UP. This makes up about 24% of total custodial deaths (1,645) recorded across the country, while Madhya Pradesh stands at a distant second position in the list, recording 153 custodial deaths during the period.
The figures have been shocking since BJP came to power in the State in 2017. There were 403 custodial deaths in 2019-20, 464 such deaths in 2018-19 and 400 deaths in 2017-18.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai too had told the Lok Sabha that Uttar Pradesh topped the list when it came to custodial deaths while responding to a question by Congress MP Karti Chidambaram on whether there has been a sharp rise in custodial deaths and torture in the country.
In 2018-19, there were 12 deaths in police custody and 452 deaths in judicial custody in Uttar Pradesh. In 2019-20, 3 deaths in police custody and 400 in judicial custody were reported.
In 2020-21, the numbers further rose - eight people died in police custody while 443 died in judicial custody. In the last three years, the minister said, this was the highest number of police and judicial custodial deaths recorded in the country.
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