‘They Want to Silence Me’: Surat Lawyer Spends 8 Hours in Lockup For Demanding FIR

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Bilal Kagzi, human rights lawyer.

This is not the first instance Kagzi was booked on what he called “fabricated charges”. In August last year, he was named in a FIR by the same police station over an incident of scuffle between two parties. Similarly, in 2012, he and his clients were detained in the same police station after they came to register a complaint against a man who had damaged and blocked a road.

Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – A human rights lawyer in Surat, Gujarat complained that he was sent into lockup by an officer at Kusumba police station where he had gone to seek a copy of a first information report (FIR) on an alleged case of arson in a mosque in Kasumba village.

The incident occurred on April 19 when Bilal Kagzi, a lawyer who deals with human rights cases in rural areas of Surat, had gone to the Kasumba police station to collect the copy of the FIR at the instance of his client (the head of the mosque committee).

According to Kagzi, members of the mosque committee got a FIR registered at the police station on April 16. Besides giving them a tentative number to check the FIR report online, the police told them that they can come the next day to collect the copy of the FIR.  But the next day when the committee went there, a police inspector on duty at the station refused to hand over the copy of the report.

“The inspector told them that it was a small incident and there was no need for any FIR,” Kagzi said. “The inspector had torn apart the FIR the police had written last night.”

Thereafter, the mosque committee informed Kagzi about the refusal of the police to file the FIR. Kagzi called deputy superintendent of police (DySP) of the area to apprise him of the matter. He also wrote an email to the top police officials of the state. The incident of arson as well as police refusal to file FIR were covered by local media.

On the evening of the April 18, Kagzi received a call from the DySP informing him that he can go to the station to collect the copy FIR the next day. On April 19, when Kazgi, along with the members of the committee, went to the police station, but only Kagzi was allowed inside. The police cited lockdown restrictions as a reason for keeping others out.

“The moment I entered the premises,” Kagzi recounted, “the police inspector started abusing and yelling at me straight away. He blamed the Muslim community for the lockdown in the country. He spoke in a language loaded with communal overtones.”

Kagzi alleged that the inspector threatened him of dire consequences. “If I shoot you with a bullet, I will get a promotion. This is Gujarat, you should remember this. The Government is with us,” he quoted the inspector as saying.

Kagzi was obviously scared. He said the cops kicked and dragged him into the lockup. “They did not even allow me to do ablution and offer namaaz.”

In the custody, the police confiscated his mobile phone and registered a case against Kagzi on the charges of obstructing a public servant from discharging his duties. The mobile phone is still with the police who are yet to file a report in the court despite summons. He suspects he was punished for taking the complaint to the top police officials. His move had riled up the inspector.

Back at home, his wife recorded a video about her husband’s detention and circulated it on the social media. The video was widely shared on Twitter and Facebook. This not only alerted the top police officials but also created a public pressure on them to intervene in the matter. So much so that he was released in the evening of the same day after spending nearly eight hours inside the lockup.

The police also obliged by registering a case against the man who had allegedly tried to set the mosque on fire. They invoked several sections of Indian Penal Code against the culprit including 436-mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house, etc.; 504 – intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace; 506 –punishment for criminal intimidation.

However, Kagzi said that the police failed to arrest the culprit who happens to be a Muslim and lives next to the mosque. He said he is an influential man and has a strong political connection with the ruling BJP. “It is because of his influence that the police inspector tore the report filed initially.”

Kagzi says emboldened by police inaction, the man went on to escalate the tension “A few days ago, this person dropped a baby diaper inside the mosque. The CCTV camera installed after the arson has caught him in the act,” informed Kagzi.

This is not the first instance Kagzi was booked on what he called “fabricated charges”. In August last year, he was named in a FIR by the same police station over an incident of scuffle between two parties. Similarly, in 2012, he and his clients were detained in the same police station after they came to register a complaint against a man who had damaged and blocked a road.

Kagzi, an LLM, has specialisation in human rights. He said he mainly deals with cases of police abuse against minorities and Dalits in Surat Rural. He claimed that he is the only lawyer in the area who deals with cases of rights abuses by police.  “They want to silence me,” he alleges.

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