With two earning members killed in a controversial “encounter”, and two others allegedly picked up by the police, the family of Mustaqueem (22) and Naushad (17) at Atrauli’s Bhenspada village in Aligarh district of western Uttar Pradesh has now been virtually put under house arrest and is “facing sexual harassment at the hands of the cops” deployed without any justification.
The two youth were allegedly shot dead on September 20 inside an abandoned government building near Machhua canal at Harduaganj. Perhaps, this is the first encounter in the country where journalists were invited to cover it live.
The family of the deceased, which has lost all its breadwinners, is “starving”, as no one from the neighbourhood – as alleged – is being allowed to visit them and, offer food. Activists who are going to the village as part of fact-finding missions and offer legal and financial help are being “attacked by people affiliated with Right-wing groups such as Bajrang Dal”.
Former Samajwadi Party leader and activist Pankhuri Pathak and historian and film writer Amaresh Misra, who had gone to meet the family of the deceased on October 6, alleged that the victims’ family have been put under “virtual siege”, and that they are not allowed to meet anybody. “We were told that the police pick up the women anytime and harass them. We were also informed that the men in uniform barge into the house whenever they want, and sexually harass the vulnerable women,” Misra told Newsclick.
Notably, the allegation has been repeated by many, but there is no complaint by the victims in this regard.
Also Read: Aligarh 'Encounter': Cops Trying to 'Implicate' Deceased in Kasganj, Muzaffarnagar Riots
Raising questions on the deployment of cops round the clock outside the house of the deceased, Pathak said, “Why are the family members of the two deceased are being kept under strict surveillance, and are made to suffer a sort of torture? Why nobody is being allowed to meet them, and whosoever dare to visit them are being attacked by the hired goons of Bajrang Dal?”
In a brazen display of lawlessness, activists of the Right-wing group allegedly assaulted Pathak and Misra, along with other fellow activists who had gone to the village to meet the victims’ families. The entire incident was caught on camera.
Explaining the chain of events that took place on October 6, Pathak recounted that both she and Misra had gone to Atrauli in Aligarh to investigate the issue of police killing of the two Muslim youths. “We reached Atrauli at around 12:30 in the afternoon, and met the wife of deceased Mustaqueem. I found out that other family members were in police custody,” she said, adding that they wanted to visit family of the priest who had also been killed in the area. Naushad and Mustaqueem – according to the police – were involved in the killing of the priest.
“While proceeding further, the entire team was accosted by a group of around 50 individuals who identified themselves as the members of Bajrang Dal. They grabbed hold of the team members, and started beating them. The mob then started expanding, as more and more Bajrang Dal members arrived at the scene, and began destroying vehicles. Abusing profusely, issuing rape threats, they started acting like a fascist gang. Five people sustained head injuries in the murderous assault,” she claimed.
Also Read: Lights, Camera, ‘Encounter’: What Happened to Naushad, Mustaqeem Before Aligarh Shootout?
Misra – who also is the founding president of a group called Mangal Pandey Sena – said that somehow, they and their team managed to flee. “Bajrangis started beating me up, screaming ‘he writes against us on social media’, ‘kill him’. Some members of Mangal Pandey Sena then arrived. Bajrang Dal members started using firearms. Mangal Pandey Sena took measures in self-defence. They were able to neutralise Bajrangis after sustained resistance,” he claimed.
Asked if they filed any complaint in this regard, Pathak said she has already lodged a complaint by dialling helpline no. 100, and has got an acknowledgement, while Misra said that the Hazratganj police station in Lucknow refused to file his FIR.
Both Misra and Pathak claimed they were unable to file a complaint at Atrauli police station as the cops were “hand-in-glove” with the assaulters. “The Aligarh police appears to have enrolled Bajrang Dal members to protect itself. There is complete breakdown of the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh,” alleged Misra.
A similar allegation of sexual harassment of the family has been levelled against the cops by Aligarh-based social activist Maria Alam Umar, who also claimed that she was threatened by Bajrang Dal members at Atrauli police station where she had gone to confirm whether women from the family have been detained.
“I visited the women from the family of the two persons who were shot dead in police encounter on September 20. They informed me that three other women of their family have been taken away by some Haji, and they were being detained at Atrauli thana (police station). Therefore, I went to the Atrauli thana to confirm if indeed the women were being detained there. Mr Pravesh Rana (Atrauli SO) on knowing that we were concerned about those women phoned villagers to assemble at thana to question us,” she told Newsclick.
Moreover, she said, he (Rana) snatched the keys of her car, and seized it even though all papers were intact. “The car is registered in the name of my father, Mr Izhar Alam Khan (ex-MLA), Kaimganj. This is extreme highhandedness of the Atrauli police which they showed to women activists when they asked about the women. We have been working for women’s issues without any consideration for caste, creed or religion, yet the Atrauli thana police blamed us for being communal,” she said.
Asked about the alleged sexual harassment of the women, Umar said that she also has got information in this regard. “I have come to know about it, but they are so terrified that they cannot come on record or dare to file a complaint in this regard. In such a situation, women are most vulnerable, and become soft target,” she added.
Also Read: How the Adityanath Govt has Reduced UP Police to an ‘Encounter’ Tool
One more fact-finding team comprising senior journalists and activists from Delhi had gone to meet the family. They alleged that when they reached Atrauli police station for an official version, SO Rana misbehaved with them, and allegedly called Bajrang Dal members to the police station. They left the place, as the people wearing saffron mufflers rode to the police station in large number, and began arguing with the fact-finding team.
Repeated attempts to contact senior police officials failed, as none of them responded to the phone calls made by Newsclick. A senior official in the DGP (director general of police) office in Lucknow said on a condition of anonymity, “We have a clear instruction not to talk to the media at any cost, as a lot of criticism of the police has been done in the wake of the incident.”