Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh police on Monday arrested constable Vijay Choudhury from his residence in Chandpur area of Bijnor district, a key accused linked with the death of a teenaged vegetable vendor in Bangarmau area in Unnao district, police confirmed.
Faisal Hussain, a native of Bhatpuri locality in Bangarmau area, was found dead shortly after he was picked up from his shop in 'sabzi mandi' area by UP police. The boy was allegedly beaten to death for violating the COVID lockdown curfew.
Three people — police constables Vijay Choudhury and Seemavat and home guard jawan Satya Prakash – have been booked on charges of murder for allegedly beating up Faisal first outside his house in Bhatpuri and then at the police station on May 21. The arrests came after local residents, along with the deceased’s family members, took to the streets and blocked the Unnao-Bangarmau-Hardoi Road, seeking action against the policemen. The blockade ended and the body was sent for post-mortem after officers on the spot gave a cheque for Rs 2 lakh as compensation and agreed to request the government for a compensation of Rs 50 lakh.
"With Vijay Choudhury’s arrest, two of the three accused in the case have been arrested so far while one Seemavat is still absconding, but efforts are on to arrest him," Unnao Superintendent of Police (SP) Anand Kulkarni confirmed to NewsClick, adding that Choudhury was arrested from his home district Bijnor with the help of Crime Branch and surveillance team.
Soon after Satya Prakash was arrested in connection with the case, which was the first arrest, the Unnao SP on Sunday, while briefing the media, said: “Preliminary investigation has revealed that Vijay Choudhary and Satya Prakash were involved in the incident. We have not found any evidence against Seemavat as yet, but efforts are being made to arrest him for investigation.”
On Sunday, two days after the heart-wrenching incident, Bangarmau Station House Officer (SHO) Jitendra Kumar Singh was sent to the police lines and Hasanganj SHO Mukul Prakash was made the SHO of Bangarmau.
HEAD INJURY LED TO FAISAL'S DEATH: POST-MORTEM REPORT
Initially, Uttar Pradesh police had blamed a heart attack for Faisal’s death but the post-mortem report on Saturday, seen by NewsClick has said the cause of death was a head injury above the right ear. Besides, there were 14 injury marks on his back. The nature of the head injuries suggested they were caused by boots.
Meanwhile, Additional Superintendent of Police (SP) Unnao, Shashi Shekhar, refuted the heart attack theory by local police as the cause of death, and confirmed that Faisal did suffer the injuries, as stated in the post-mortem report.
It was alleged that the street vendor was first assaulted on the road by police in the local vegetable market -- Bhatpuri area of Bangarmau -- where he was selling vegetables like many others. The police allegedly also brutally beat him up inside the police station, where he was taken in an unconscious state. As his condition started deteriorating, he was taken to the Bangarmau Community Health Centre (CHC) where he was declared dead on arrival.
The family members of the boy have alleged that he was beaten up mercilessly at the police station in front of the station house officer and claimed that CCTV footage and video recordings are evidence of their cruelty.
District Magistrate (DM) Ravindra Kumar and SP Anand Kulkarni also met the aggrieved family at their residence in Bangarmau on Sunday and assured them of justice. The district administration also promised to the aggrieved family to compensate and allocate a house under any government scheme.
Anu Chaudhary, Registrar of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on Monday sent a notice to the Unnao district authorities taking note of Faisal’s death, asking the district authorities to submit a report within three days.
LOST SOLE BREADWINNER
The death of Faisal Hussain, 18, has dealt a crushing blow to his family. His 58-year-old mother Naseema Begum, 13-year-old sister Khushnuma and father Islam Hussain are now clueless about their future, having lost their sole breadwinner.
“Where will I look for him? They took my heart away. Who will take care of us? He was running the house. Had I known this would happen, I would never let him go,” said an inconsolable Naseema, Faisal’s mother, adding that her son had been selling vegetables since the age of 13 as his father couldn't due to old age problems. "My son was the apple of our eyes and always take care of us despite he was earning hardly Rs 300 per day," her distraught mother told NewsClick, tears rolling down her face while showing the new clothes Faisal had bought for her.
Faisal’s younger brothers, Mohammad Sufiyan Hussain, Noman Hussain and sister Khushnuma, remained in stoic silence.
The victim’s father, Islam Husain, who is in his late 60s, said: "Bada farmabardar beta tha, hum dono ki khidmat karta tha... chheen liya police walon ne humse (he was very obedient son and would take care of both of us. Police snatched from us," while pleading for compensation and justice to them. "We are waiting for the wheels of justice to turn but on the other hand we do not have any hope left," Islam said.
Read Also: UP: Muslim Man Dies In Police Custody After Being Illegally Picked up, Family Alleges Torture
Commenting over the "custodial death", S.R. Darapuri, former Inspector General of UP police, said the main reason behind street vendor death is brutalisation of Uttar Pradesh police, which he said had become more brutalised and prejudiced against Muslim under the Yogi Adityanath-led government.
"No doubt the highest custodial deaths took place in Uttar Pradesh and the reason is that police is working on 'thok do culture' 'sabak sikha do' and encounter policy. They have been given an upper hand to do this and are misusing it. This is called brazenness," the former IPS officer told NewsClick, adding that these incidents happen because of low accountability or prosecution among police forces.
He further said, "the constitution or any law does not allow police to torture but since it also acceptable in our society most of the time it goes unpunished. The torture by police in UP is very frequent and they do excessive torture due to the culture of impunity. In Faisal's case, his biggest crime was his religion rather than his actual crime (breaking lockdown norms), therefore, the police prejudice came," the former IG claimed.
Former Director-General of the UP police Vibhuti Narain Rai said already violence has increased in our society and police is the part of society and they have the acceptance of society. "Every day, the brutality of the police be it in Chhattisgarh or Uttar Pradesh, is being reported in the media and it is possible due to digital media since it has transparency due to electronic gadgets. Earlier, during the print media, these things were not reported as much. We are never a democracy and could even become in 70 years," Rai told NewsClick, adding that police reform is the need of hour but unfortunately, “it will not take place as every "ruler" wants police to work on their orders”.