Did the Uttar Pradesh police buckle under political pressure and stage the 'encounter' of Naushad (17) and Mustaqueem (22) in Aligarh district on September 20? The duo – according to policemen – were “wanted criminals” who were “involved in a series of murders (at least six)”, including the killings of “two priests and a husband-wife couple” – who were relatives of former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh – at Safedpur village in the district.
But, the family of one of the slain priests has punctured the police's theory, and has alleged that the two were eliminated as a result of political pressure that the police was facing.
Also Read: Lights, Camera, ‘Encounter’: What Happened to Naushad, Mustaqeem Before Aligarh Shootout?
“What is the evidence to show that the real culprits were arrested and killed?” asked Giriraj Singh, brother of one of the deceased priests Roop Singh, alleging that the police made “false arrests under pressure”.
He said Rajveer Singh – Kalyan Singh’s son and BJP MP from Etah – and Dalveer Singh – BJP legislator from Barauli in Aligarh district – had come to Safedpur, and had asked the police to solve the murder cases in five days. “The police was not able to nab the culprits, so they framed innocents by slapping false cases against them, and killed two of them,” he alleged.
“The Harduaganj station officer (SO) had shown me a video on his mobile in which a boy confessed that he, along with six others, first killed baba (Roop Singh), and after that, he killed two others (relatives of Kalyan Singh) as they had seen them,” claimed Giriraj.
After killing all three, he said, the man in the video said that he returned to Aligarh city from Atrauli by the “last bus”. “But, the last bus leaves Atrauli at 8 pm. My elder brother was at the temple after 8. And the husband-wife couple (relatives of Kalyan Singh) only came out to the field after 10:30 pm. How did the person in the video kill both baba and the two others by 8 pm?” he asked.
He said the modus operandi suggests that the crime appears to have been committed by thieves who had earlier stolen from the temple Rs 35,000 from the temple, and some utensils meant for cooking food. They stroke once again, and managed to run away with Rs 60,000 and an amplifier. “This time, they stole Rs 90,000. But, it appears that as they entered the temple, baba woke up. They killed baba fearing that he might have recognised them. When the thieves reached the tubewell in the temple premise to clean blood patches, the husband-wife, who would have come out in the field to chase away wild pigs, might have seen them. They were left with no option, but to kill them, fearing recognition and subsequent arrests. The modus operandi and the turn of events show that the crime has either been committed by locals or with their support,” he opined.
The police claim that the two boys – Naushad and Mustaqueem – escaped from custody, and were found riding a stolen motorcycle on September 20 in Harduaganj and after an exchange of fire, they were shot dead.
But, the locals allege that the two were picked up by the cops on September 16 from their rented home in at Atrauli’s Bhenspara village when they were home for lunch in the afternoon. They were allegedly beaten up in full public glare. The entire locality, including women and young boys, testified to the fact that they were picked up, and beaten up while being taken by the police. Later, according to the family, the cops came and collected their Aadhaar and other identity cards. But, Aligarh police claimed that they were absconding.
Along with them, young Salman and Nafees were picked up, too. Salman has been sent to jail, but Nafees, who is reportedly mentally unstable, has allegedly been kept in extra-judicial custody.
The families and activists argue that the legal procedures were not followed when they were picked up. The deceased’s family has also not been provided autopsy reports or even the dead bodies.
‘Didn’t hear anything suspicious about them’
Contradicting the police's claim that the two boys had a criminal history, their neighbours in Chhrra locality of the district, where they had stayed for more than three years, said the police never came and enquired about them when they were staying here.
“The police came here looking for them only after the encounter took place. We did not hear anything suspicious about the family,” said residents of the narrow lane where the family once lived. “They would ask others for food, and boys in the family would run small errands to make ends meet,” they added.
The locals at Bhenspara – where the family of Naushad and Mustaqueem has been living for the past nine months – claim that this is a clear case of a “fake encounter”. “Grave injustice has been done to the poor family and there is no doubt about it. The boys were innocents,” say both Hindu as well and Muslim elders in the locality.
Naushad and Mustaqeem were working in an embroidery workshop in the locality, while Salman used to work in a cloth shop. Nafees, being mentally challenged, used to stay at home. “Salman used to come to our home with the work allocated to him. We can vouch for his innocence. He was a simple young boy, honest and diligent. He just can’t be a criminal. These are all fake charges against poor young boys,” said the women in the neighbourhood.
“Yes, we have been terrorised by the police. We are afraid for our own children and relatives. And, yet, the truth must come out,” they declared in one voice.
Youngsters in the village corroborate what the women and others said. “They were hard working young men. We saw them every day. Never in these nine months did the police ever visit their homes. So how come they became absconding criminals overnight?” they asked. “They were abjectly poor. The neighbours helped them. Why did the police kill them in cold-blood?”