Police Encounter II

Police Encounter II – ‘Are Cops Above Law?'

Chirchita village in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh, have decided to boycott the next elections. Reason: they want justice for Karamvir Singh’s family who lost their son Sumit to a ‘police encounter’ in Noida. The 22-year-old youth was mistaken by a police party for a gangster going by the same name, tortured and then allegedly silenced. The family approached the National Human Rights Commission and have dragged UP police to court for a ‘state-sponsored murder’. Karamvir recounts the events that led to an upheaval in his village:   My son, Sumit was a simple 22-year-old boy. He did not have too many big dreams. While many youngsters from our village joined the armed forces, Sumit just wanted to stay back and work on the farm. On September 30, 2017, I sent Sumit to the nearby market to buy pesticides.

That was the last time we saw him alive. He came back home, lifeless, wrapped in a shroud. His body punctured with bullets. Sumit was abducted from a tea-stall in the local market. Locals, who were present in the market that evening told us that a white SUV stopped there and five strongly-built men walked out. They approached Sumit, asked his name, and pulled him inside the car. The wait seemed endless. There was no news for the next few days.

Then on October 2, we were told to give Rs 3.5 Lakh to the Noida police for a ‘challan’. And then they would let him go. However, the police refused to let him go. We heard rumours that Sumit was soon to be killed in an encounter. Shocked and scared we reached out for every possible person/ organization for help –the UP DIG, National Human Rights Commission and the chief minister’s office -but to no avail.

On the night of October 3, I lost my son to a fake encounter. The concocted story seemed straight from a badly-made Bollywood thriller. Sumit, along with three others, ‘robbed a bank’ and was trying to escape in a car when the encounter took place. While the others easily managed to escape the wrath of the very efficient UP police, Sumit was killed in an exchange of fire.

The police claimed to have found some weapons, but in their account, there is no mention of the cash that my son and his ‘gang’ had looted. There are several burning questions demand answers. My son had never ventured out of the village, yet the UP Police claim that he had 12 criminal cases against him in Noida! Eyewitnesses, who saw Sumit being forced into the car, came running to us when they read about the ‘encounter’ and saw Sumit’s photo in the newspaper.

The UP police will never admit this, but they mistook my son for someone else. There is another youth of the same name, in his mid-thirties who has many cases against his name and is absconding since 2011. My son lost his life because the police thought he was a dreaded gangster of the same name. Any admission to this huge faux pas will leave the police red-faced. It has almost been a year since Sumit’s state-sponsored murder.

Life at home has changed. A dull silence prevails. The air is filled with paranoia. We do not let our younger son Praveen venture out after sunset.   There have been two Maha panchayats in our village with senior political leaders in attendance. Even the late BJP MP Hukum Singh attended one of them and with his help, we approached the National Human Rights Commission. After an inquiry, the NHRC has issued a notice to the UP government and police.

The hearing of our case at the High Court will be coming up soon. Another maha-panchayat is scheduled to be held in October. We have full faith in the judiciary and our well-wishers, who have been a pillar of support. We keep getting calls from unknown numbers and offered an obscene amount of money for settling the case.  But we are adamant.

We want justice for our son. We will continue to demand justice from the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister, or else, we will boycott the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls. A khaki uniform doesn’t absolve the police of their crimes.

My Name Is Khan

‘My Name Is Khan, I Can’t Enter A Mosque’

Every year around August, I used to see my Hindu brothers carrying the kaanwar (a wooden pole carrying two water pots on its ends) on their shoulders for several hundreds of kilometer on foot and marveled at their faith. I would often mention this to my friends and relatives too that such dedication is laudable. I also learnt that making theses kaanwars provided livelihood to many a Muslim family in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Since my childhood, I am moved by the idea of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood and wanted to set an example towards this goodwill.

So this year, I also decided to join the pilgrim on foot and went to Haridwar in the beginning of the Hindu month of Sawan. However, I decided not to wear any saffron clothing and retained my skull cap and beard to make my point. I collected the holy water of Ganga in my kaanwar, emulating my Hindu co-pilgrims, and began my journey back to my hometown in Baghpat. Throughout my journey back home, I drew applause and the same hospitality provided to my co-pilgrims.

At every rest-camp, people would walk over to me and commended my initiative to promote the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. The approval and appreciation for my act, however, ended once I reached my hometown. Things took an ugly turn. I was physically attacked by own community members and the assailants destroyed my kaanwar. I was called names, some even declared me a kafir, an apostate, who had no place in the vicinity. I was shaken but I held on.

I had reached my hometown on Friday. When I reached the local mosque to offer ṣalāt al-jumu’ah (Friday prayers), I was surrounded by a group of irate Muslims who thrashed me and chased me away. They threatened me not to return ever to a mosque. ‘You have maligned our religion… It is better for you to go to a temple and play the bells… sing kirtans…,’ they screamed at me.

I had never imagined that my own community members and neighbours will turn against me in such a violent way. More was to follow once I reached home. Another group of angry locals gathered outside my house. They first attacked my house with stones and later some criminal element in the crowd hurled desi bombs. I was terrified and rushed to the local police station after the crowd dispersed. The media too played up the incident and police arrested two persons identified by me and locked them up.

However, both of them got bail the very next day and confronted me with new threats. I was assured by the police that they have deputed some personnel in the locality and are keeping a watch. On their assurance, I again went to the mosque today (Monday) but I was disallowed to enter the premises and I was chased away. Have I committed any sin? I feel threatened, my family unsafe and ostracised.