Following a set pattern across the state, how Uttar Pradesh Police ransacked one of the oldest and most respected Shia seminaries in the country, turning its wrath on its elderly cleric Maulana Asad Raza Hussaini and his students during the anti-CAA protests. The cops not just vandalised the madrassa, they also brutally beat up Maulana Raza, who is in his 70s and was feted recently by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, and his minor students, even stripping them at the police station.
Mohammed Anas | Caravan Daily
MUZAFFARNAGAR — A segment of the Muzaffarnagar Shias are believed to be supporters of the BJP. They are also self-confessedly supportive of the city administration. But December 20 gave them a brutal shock. They are now thinking anew. On Dec 20, the city police barged into the most-prominent Shia institution in the city, the Anjuman Taraqqi e Taleem e Sadat Bahra residential school (a modern seminary which is also known as Sadat Madarsa), and brutally beat up students and their teacher, Maulana Asad Raza Hussaini.
The police vandalised the building of the school. They smashed doors, the belongings in the classrooms, and hostel rooms. While Maulana Hussaini is in hospital, some of his students are behind the bars. Despite being inside the premises of the school throughout the December 20 protests, they face charges of rioting and arson. Interestingly, all these students are minors (below 18).
December 20 raid on the school
After Friday prayers, when the protests broke out in the vicinity of the school at Meenakshi Chowk, the students there were unaware of the danger approaching them. As the police lathi-charged and resorted to firing at protesters, they ran for cover. Some of them entered the school premises. The police chased them. And a large team of police personnel and the Rapid Action Force personnel entered the school forcibly.
In the school/hostel offices, a broken almirah, the lock of which reads मेरा भारत महान (My India is great), piles of glass, smashed printer & picture frames. The Saadat hostel here is a a quiet green place where Hindus join Muslim friends for "group study" pic.twitter.com/WIHgYYtGOc
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) December 28, 2019
First, they started beating the namazis (worshippers) who had gathered for Friday prayers at the school mosque. Then, they proceeded towards the Quran and Arabic Teaching Centre. “They hurled choicest abuses at school staff and the students. The moment they entered the premises, they began wielding their weapons. They beat up everyone who they came across at the school. We managed to run for cover. They barged into the Quran Teaching Centre. Maulana Hussaini tried to stop them. They pounced on him and beat him up black and blue. When the students tried to shield him, the police attacked them too. They dragged Maulana and his students into the open and beat them one by one and took them to the police station,” said Kazim Hussain, the caretaker of the school.
“The moment they entered the premises, they began wielding their weapons. They beat up everyone who they came across at the school. They barged into the Quran Teaching Centre. Maulana Hussaini tried to stop them. They pounced on him and beat him up black and blue. When the students tried to shield him, the police attacked them too. They dragged Maulana and his students into the open and beat them one by one and took them to the police station,” said the caretaker.
He also said that the frightened and bruised students were forced to chant slogans like “Jai Shri Ram” and “Har Har Mahadev”. He said that it gave the impression that some Hindutva zealots did this in the garb of policemen. Kazim took this correspondent on a tour of the school and its hostel. Classrooms, computer labs and each room of the hostel bear marks of police vandalism. Windowpanes are broken; most of the furniture lies around in pieces. Windows are broken; beds having been turned into to heap of wood.
“The police even looted whatever cash the students had in their trunks,” said advocate Adnan, a local associated with the school. Adnan said that they have filmed the losses of the school property and tried filing a case against the police, but the cops are not registering a case.“Isn’t this a jungle raj? You are victimised, but your voice will not reach the doorsteps of justice,” he lamented.
When ‘Caravan Daily’ asked Muzaffarnagar Superintendent of Police, Satpal Antil, why the police raided the school and beat up underage students? “Because some vandals had entered the school and when the police tried to confront them, they opened fire. The police had to retaliate,” he said. He didn’t admit that the police resorted to brutality and that minor kids were subjected to torture.
Poor students, police torture
Anjuman Taraqqi e Taleem e Sadat Bahra is an institution for destitute Shia children, who can’t afford their education. It is run by a trust of the same name. Around 80-100 students, coming from various parts of UP, reside in the school hostel. They are aged between 8 and 18. On December 20, around 42 of them were inside the hostel when the police raided the school premises “in search of unruly anti-CAA protesters.” When the police started beating up their teacher Maulana Asad Hussaini, they dared to stop the police by making a protective shield around their teacher. They were beaten mercilessly by the police. When cops refused to leave their teacher alone, they were dragged to the courtyard of the school and beaten up in gay abandon.
“All of their hostel mates too were ordered to vacate their room and stand in the open. They were beaten one by one. One student was given more than 10 strokes of a lathi,” said Kazim Hussain.
A student, according to school staff, suffered renal failure and was admitted to a private hospital in Meerut.
“We were with Maulana Sahib in the Quran and Arabic learning centre when we heard the Commotion. Suddenly, a bevy of policemen entered our centre. They all using filthy language and menacingly headed towards Maulana Sahib. Maulana tried to speak to them politely, but they hit him with batons, and repeatedly. The Maulana started crying and asked them to show mercy. They didn’t relent and continued beating him. He fell on the ground, bleeding profusely. They continued beating him.
“We fell upon the Maulana to protect him and thus were beaten continuously for some time. They then dragged us outside. The Maulana was almost unconscious. Two policemen held him. His bleeding continued and his clothes were drenched in blood. Then, they called all other hostel inmates to come out, and beat them one by one. Many of them were asked to take away their kurtas and shirts and were hit on their naked waists. While beating us, the policemen abusively told us ‘This is your azadi. You wanted this?’
Then some of them came forward and asked us to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Har Har Mahadev’. The Maulana and one student turned unconscious. Then, they bundled us into a police truck and took us to the Civil Lines police station, where the ordeal was repeated. Meanwhile, some policemen stayed back at school and vandalised the school and hostel buildings,” said Kashif Raza (name changed), a student-resident of the school.
He said that even in police station, the Maulana and the students were beaten. Only children below 10 years were left out of this torture. “The Maulana was stripped off his blood-drenched kurta and beaten again. He fell unconscious. One student also fell unconscious (he was reportedly later diagnosed with renal failure and admitted to hospital). We were forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” slogans again. It was a period in hell for us. After around 24 hours,
The Maulana and some of us were released. Now, around 13 students remain in police custody. I don’t know what sort of brutalities they are undergoing,” said Raza.
Maulana Asad Raza Hussaini is one of the most renowned and respected Shia scholars of the state. He is the imam of Juma (Friday) prayers. For his scholarly pursuits, he has been awarded a presidential honour, conferred by Vice-President Vankaiah Naidu earlier this year. The picture of him getting the award adorns his drawing room, which is now filled with visitors all the time. But, the Maulana is not to be seen there. He is in a hospital somewhere, his family informs. But on insistence, his son, Syed Mohammed Hussein shares what really happened to Maulana.
“He was with his students when the police attacked the madrassa, allegedly on the pretext of chasing some vandals. But, despite my father being a renowned personality, the policemen didn’t listen to him and straightaway wielded their batons on him and his students. The rest of the details are narrated by Kashif Raza. But, what is shocking to us is that his reputation was not respected and he was brutalized this way. Our well-wishers called every contact possible.
“From local leaders to BJP leader Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, to Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and UP minister Mohsin Raza. But, it seemed the local police did not heed anyone. When the police called us, we were told to bring a new pair of clothes for him. We were startled at this suggestion. But as we reached the Civil Lines police station, we understood why. His clothes were drenched in blood. Since he is diabetic, his bleeding was not stopping. He was having bruises all over his body. We took him to hospital and he is under treatment for both physical and mental wounds, which perhaps will never heal,” said Hussain.
Iqbal Haider, aged around 70, had gone to attend Friday prayers at the madrassa mosque. He is a fond follower of the Maulana. Hence, after prayers, he sat down with the Maulana to listen to his conversational sermons. He said that suddenly they heard heavy knocks at the madrassa gate.
“Before we could understand, it was broken into. A crowd of policemen entered the madrassa using abusive language. We couldn’t even ask any question. They just started beating everyone. Before the students made a protective shield around the Maulana, I tried to save him. But they dragged me aside and thrashed me continuously until I became unconscious. I woke up in the police van when we were being taken to the police station.
“At the police station, I saw what I had heard about the torture cells of the Shah of Iran. Even teenage kids were brutalised severely. An 8-year-old kid was not beaten but he was thrust on a chair and asked to see the beating of a naked student. This kid has suffered trauma attacks. I was beaten over my bare waist. The Maulana was beaten with his bleeding waist open too. His clothes were rinsed in blood. The Maulana and some students had gone on a fast on that day (Friday). They asked for water during maghrib time (dusk), and a policeman said, ‘You will be offered Amit Shah’s urine’,” said Haider, almost breaking down. He was released from police custody along with other students.
Deal and release
The Maulana and his students were not released by police as a courtesy, as has been claimed by the police. Local leaders say a deal was struckand chief minister Yogi Adityanath himself had to intervene to ensure their release.
“The Shia community collected money and agreed not to file a criminal case against the police to bargain for release of the Maulana and his students. Per student, around 1-5 lakh was given to police. It could be more for Maulana,” said a local leader.
He said the Shia community has even agreed not to file any case against the police. This fact seems credible. When Caravan Daily contacted a number of community leaders, including the family of Maulana Raza, they didn’t say they were ready to file the case. “We are too terrified. There is a reign of terror here,” they said in unison.
Congress leader and former Union minister Saiduzzaman Saeed told ‘Caravan Daily’ that the Shia community contacted everyone they could to free the Maulana and the seminary students. “They called even Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. But these calls didn’t help. They then called Yogi via Mohsin Raza. Yogi himself called the police officers here to release the Maulana and his students after their 24-hour ordeal,” said Saeed.
Police Defends Crackdown
This correspondent possessed video evidence of the police entering the seminary, using threatening language. Besides, the seminary staff provided Friday the footage of post-police action damage to madrassa properties. With these proofs, when this correspondent asked city SP Satpal Saini as to why the police resorted to such brutalities inside an educational institution, he said that the police were chasing armed vandals and ended up inside the seminary.
“When the police entered the madrassa, the armed vandals fired upon policemen. They retaliated in defence. Perhaps, in the fit of action, they could not differentiate between vandals and students. And some students were beaten,” he said. He didn’t bother to explain why the police didn’t recognise a 72-year-old cleric or why police resorted to brutalities asnarrated by the victims.