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UP: Muslim Man Dies In Police Custody After Being Illegally Picked up, Family Alleges Torture

While the police claim the man suffered a heart attack, the victim’s family insisted this morning that he was subjected to brutal torture in custody.
UP: Muslim Man Dies In Police Custody After Being Illegally Picked up, Family Alleges Torture

Lucknow: Controversy has erupted in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh district after the death of a 36-year-old man – allegedly in police custody – on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday in what might be a case of police brutality. The incident has also found resonance on social media, which has in turn brought it national spotlight.

Ambedkar Nagar Superintendent of Police (SP) Alok Priyadarshi has ordered the suspension of seven policemen, including Swat Station House Officer (SHO) Devendra Pal Singh and his colleague Harikesh Yadav, and ordered a magisterial inquiry into the death of Ziauddin, who had been taken into custody for questioning in a case of theft.

While the police claim the man suffered a heart attack, the victim’s family insisted this morning that he was subjected to brutal torture in custody. However, later in the day, his father said that it would be futile to level allegations as they had lost their son and had no hope for justice.

CUSTODIAL DEATHS IN UP

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 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. It 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.

Ziauddin, a native of Hajipur Kudarat village of Pawai block — 50 kms from the district headquarter in Azamgarh – was arrested in connection with a case of theft on March 24. He died in police custody in Ambedkar Nagar, allegedly due to torture on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday, his family said. His death angered family members and locals who staged a protest demanding the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against police personnel responsible for his death.

Following a complaint by the victim's family, a case was registered under section 302 and 306 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against policemen at the Akbarpur police station of Ambedkar Nagar district on March 27.

The victim’s parents and villagers alleged that Ziauddin was picked up by a group of Special Operation Group (SOG) of Ambedkar Nagar at least three days ago, without any warrant or a legal notice. “My brother Ziauddin had left home on his bike on Wednesday at around 4 pm after informing his wife Fuzaila that he was going to a relative’s place and would return on Thursday. When he did not return, even by midnight, his parents started lookig for him, only to be informed of his death by the police,” Shaquib, his cousin, told Newsclick, adding that the Pawai Station Officer (SO) informed the gram pradhan in the wee hours of Friday that Ziauddin was picked for questioning and had suffered a cardiac arrest during the interrogation.

On Friday, Ziauddin's wife received a call from the police informing her about the ill-health of her husband and she asked to go there immediately. The phone was disconnected before she could utter a single word. A distraught Fuzaila made several calls to the number, but the call was not received. When we rushed to the local Pawai police station in the night, they had no clue about Ziauddin's whereabouts,” alleged Shaquib.

We came to know through local media outlets the next morning that he was in a critical condition in Jaitpur police station. When we reached the police station we did not get a straight answer. We had been running from pillar to post in search of Ziauddin. In the afternoon we got to know that he died in Ambedkar Nagar district hospital,” the victim's father alleged.

The family members have accused the cops of extortion. “The police officials had been relentlessly pursuing him for Rs three lakh to remove the name from an FIR. When he was unable to pay the bribe he was picked up by the cops and died following custodial torture at their hands,” Shaquib told Newsclick.

When asked about the aforementioned FIR, Shaquib said he has not aware of it and claimed there was no criminal record in Ziauddin’s name.

Meanwhile, as details of the alleged torture emerged, people began demanding action against the cops. Opposition lawmakers from UP have taken to the streets in protest. Human rights group Rihai Manch has condemned the police.

Rajeev Yadav, general secretary of the Rihai Manch, who visited Hajipur Kudarat along with his team, told Newsclick: “There was an ongoing investigation in a case of looting from Ambedkar Nagar for the last one and half months. The cops had picked up four people from Azamgarh and Ziauddin was among them. The police were demanding around Rs three lakhs from Ziauddin to remove his name from the charge sheet. He had paid around Rs 1.2 lakh and was unable to pay the rest of the amount. Since he was not able to give them more money, the SOG team picked him up while he was on his way to a relative’s place in Baddopur village, Jaunpur district,” alleged Yadav.

He added that the looting incident occurred in the Jaitpur area of Ambedkar Nagar. Ziauddin was picked up from the adjacent district of Jaunpur, not from his home district of Azamgarh and died in yet another neighbouring district, Ambedkar Nagar.

The Ambedkar Nagar police has claimed that Ziauddin died due to a heart attack during questioning. However, it was not able to tell media persons that if the investigation has been ongoing for the last one and half month then what evidence have they collected so far and at what point in the case was Ziauddin was picked up. But they will not tell us as the whole police gang is involved in extortion cases,” the Rihai Manch secretary alleged, adding that four others in the same case were picked up by the SOG team but there is no idea of their whereabouts.

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