Vandalised, Brutalised, Fearful Muzaffarnagar Muslims Hesitant to File Complaints Against Police

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Meenakshi Chowk in Muzaffarnagar, the epicentre of December 20 protests, limps back to normalcy after 10 days. — Photos: Mohammed Anas/Caravan Daily

GROUND REPORT

After the brutal police crackdown on Muzaffarnagar Muslims the city continues to live in the shadow of fear. Households and inmates left their properties and have gone underground. Despite a huge amount of evidence (both pictorial and video) of police brutality, no one is coming forward to file any complaint.

Mohammed Anas | Caravan Daily

MUZAFFARNAGAR — After 10 days of violent anti-CAA protests and brutal police crackdown on Muzaffarnagar Muslims, the city continues to live in the shadow of fear. Vandalised houses and a prominent Shia madarsa are empty. Households have left their properties and went underground. Those injured in the police action are either behind bars or nursing their physical wounds while in hiding. Despite massive evidence (both pictorial and video) of police brutality, no one is coming forward to file a complaint.

As this correspondent toured the city to know the people’s version of December 20 events and subsequent police action, he found that almost each and everyone sulked and needed to be assured of safety before opening up about what happened on December 20 and after.

Closure of Muslim shops

“You don’t know there are police informers everywhere. Even, how can we trust you? You may reveal our names to police,” said one Waseem Ahmed (name changed) who has a shop at Meenakshi Chowk, the epicentre of December 20 protests. His shop, along with 66 others, was sealed by the police after protests. The main market of the city remained closed for six days.

Hindu leader Aakash Sharma participating in arson in police presence.

Most of these shops are of Muslims and the Meenakshi Chowk bazaar was the bedrock of the market economy of city’s Muslims. Sealing has struck the core of this market. The six-day closure, according to shopkeepers, is estimated to cause around Rs 20 crore. “This loss has added to our woes. We are already facing the brunt of extremely slow economy,” said a shopkeeper.

Around 500 local vendors, hawkers and pavement shopkeepers were dependent for their business on the market. “We all have suffered in the last week,” said Arshad Chaudhary, who sells religious books on the pavement along the mosque in the market.

Vandalism by cops

Adjacent to the Meenakshi Chowk market is Khalapar colony, one of the most prominent Muslim localities of the city. As you enter the colony, the first prominent sight which greets you is that of a three-storey building with damaged car parked inside its entrance. Right from its gate to the top floor of the house, every article and structure lie destroyed. The occupants of the house have left the building and are said to be residing at some undisclosed location to avoid “press and the police”.

Ransacked house of Haji Abdul Hasan.

“This building belongs to Haji Abdul Hasan, a cloth merchant. He is an affluent man. His house, known locally as kothi (haveli, or big house), was raided by police on December 20 night. We all heard screams from his house but as the word spread that it was police raid, we didn’t dare to go and see what is happening there. Later, we came to know via news channels that all members of his house were brutally thrashed. His daughters’ dowry items, jewellery and cash were looted. His house was vandalised completely. Moreover, he and his sons have been booked for December 20 protests by the police,” said a neighbour, who is now taking care of the vacant and dilapidated house.

As one strolls deep into the locality, a series of houses are seen vandalised. All belongs to the well-to-do of the locality. “The story here is that the wealthy have been hurt economically. Their properties have been looted and their shops sealed. While, poor have been hurt physically — killed and jailed,” said Haji Bhoore, the caretaker of a street mosque in the locality.

Haji Bhoore, caretaker of a local mosque, shows the broken glasses of mosque gate

Haji Bhoore’s mosque in the Gulla Wali Gali was vandalised too by police on December 20 night. “We have video evidence to prove that police broke into the mosque and indulged in vandalism,” said Bhoore.

CCTV footage of the police ransacking the mosque is in possession of the Caravan Daily.

In the same street is Saeed Pehelwan’s house. Pehelwan is another affluent person of the locality. His house bore similar scars of vandalism as those at Haji Hasan’s house. Only zenana jan (ladies) of the house live in the house these days. “Some of the men of the house have been picked up by police, rest are too scared to come to their own home,” said Shabista, daughter of Pehelwan.

Shabista, daughter of Saeed Pehelwan, narrates ordeal of her family.

Around 15-20 houses of the locality have similar stories to tell. Their stories have been covered extensively by some TV channels. But, the police has not taken any action against the culprits.

When asked about police action in this locality, SP City, Muzaffarnagar, Satpal Antil refuted the charge of police vandalism as baseless allegation. But, when this correspondent told him that there are video evidence proving police vandalism, he said that if any such evidence exists then people must file complaint and use proofs in court.”

But, victims of police violence said that they shudder even at the thought of filing complaint against city police. “Many people initially tried to register case against police. But, they were threatened by police with counter-cases,” said a victim.

Police lookout notice for absconding anti-CAA protesters.

Since news of December 20 police crackdown, several groups of lawyers have announced to offer their services to help the victims. However, till the writing of this article, no one came forward to book police for the atrocities it committed.

Meanwhile, two Muzaffarnagar social activists, Aasif Rahi and Shadab Khan, who were even approached by the city administration, to appeal for peace on December 20 have also been booked by the police for causing harm to social harmony in the city.

The Caravan Daily has covered separately how the police ransacked the Sadat madarsa and beat its students and teacher.

Death by bullet

In the south of Khalapar locality is house of late Noor Mohammed, a small time cloth vendor. On December 20, the 26-year-old had left his pregnant wife and toddler daughter to earn the daily livelihood. By the evening, he was dead. His family alleges that he was killed in police firing. “He was found dead with bullet wounds near Meenakshi Chowk. We were called by police to identify him and take him to Meerut hospital in case he had some last minute chances,” said Umar Daraj, brother of Mohammed.

Noor Mohammed’s toddler daughter with her aun

He said that the police even didn’t allow his body to be taken back to home for burial. “They said it may lead to riots in the city and arranged his burial at Daurala near Meerut,” he said. SP Satpal Antil denied the charge that the police bullet killed Mohammed. “The police didn’t fire a single bullet. How can the police kill him? His family’s complaint says he was killed in firing of some unknown persons,” he told the Caravan Daily.

Role of BJP-linked Hindutva zealots

On December 20, it was not only Muslims crowd which gathered to protest against CAA. A large number of Hindu protesters too gathered and allegedly went on rampage, trying to set Muslim properties afire. CCTV footage and pictures testify to that. Actually, one man called Aakash Sharma alias Bobby has been arrested by the city police for arson. Many locals allege that a large number of followers of city MP and Union minister Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan took part in the December 20 violence. “These people were carrying firearms and were with the police. Despite clear evidence against them, no action has been taken,” a local said.

Locals gather around a logfire after shops were unsealed at Meenakshi Chowk

Deoband, madarsa students and Union minister

The Muzaffarnagar violence provided a platform to political and religious leadership to score brownie points. Deoband-connected cleric, who is also head of his branch of Jamiat Ulema Hind, Mehmood Madani said that the chests of Muslims will outnumber police bullets and that Muslims will continue to protest against CAA at whatever cost. In almost response to his comments, Union Minister Dr Sanjeev Balyan sad that protesters included underage madarsa students and that since Deoband seminary is nearby, more such students may join anti-CAA protests. “Thus, role of madarsa students in protests and those who send them there should be probed,” he said.

This correspondent spoke to Mr Balyan and asked what did he mean? for his comments on Muzaffarnagar violence. He said that the participation of madarsa students in December 20 protests was evident from arrests of 42 Sadat madarsa students. “A number of them have been arrested for arson and rioting. They are minors and must have been coaxed to take part in the protest. Therefore, their role calls for investigation,” he told the Caravan Daily.

When this correspondent reminded him that Sadat madarsa is a Shia institution, which is almost opposite of Deoband school of thought, he admitted his ignorance of difference.

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