“You want azaadi? Wait, we will give you azaadi!”
That is what the police told Khurshida Khatoon, a 20-year old BSc student in Bihar’s Aurangabad town, after barging into her home on Saturday, 21 December, 2019. “They threatened to shoot us if we did not open the door,” she said. “There were only women in the house, and my uncle who is very old. They did not even have a lady constable.”
Khatoon’s brothers were at the shop, and her father stays in Saudi. “But it did not matter,” she said. “The police opened the cupboard, vandalised the house, broke the door, and thrashed my scooty, as if we were criminals. They misbehaved and abused us in words I cannot repeat. We felt very unsafe. I heard sounds of gun shots in the area as well.”
Earlier in the day, the town of Aurangabad had observed a protest at Ramesh Chowk, where most of the gatherings and speeches are usually held. RJD and its allies had called for a bandh to rally against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). But the peaceful protest turned violent towards the end. Following the unrest, residents told this reporter, police began raiding the predominantly Muslim localities around the protest site to identify the “miscreants”. Along the way, the force vandalised public property too.
Khatoon, who lives in Pathan Toli, said when the police did not find anything or anyone in their home, they picked up her uncle, who is almost 80. “We asked them if he looks like someone who would be able to pelt stones,” she said. “But the police would not listen. They said we are taking him to the police station. Eventually, all the women in the house stood in between him and the force when they let him go.”
However, three kids living in her mohalla were less lucky. “They were hiding out of fear of police,” said Khatoon. “We were petrified, and we are adults. They are underage, and very young. But the police brutally beat them up. And even broke their doors. The family is so poor it might not even have the money to replace those doors.”
The Superintendent of Police, Aurangabad, Dipak Baranwal, asked this reporter to speak to the deputy superintendent of police (SDPO) Anup Kumar for details. The SDPO said there was only one FIR filed, but that the station house officer (SHO) would be better placed to answer my questions. When I rang the SHO Ravi Bhushan, he refused to give details on the phone, but said the police have so far arrested 46 people.
One of the arrested is Ahmed (name changed to protect his identity), who, according to the FIR, was caught while “launching a life threatening attack” on the police. He is noted to be 28 years old. But his board examination certificate, which Firstpost has reviewed, shows his date of birth as 6 February, 2003. He will turn 17 in February 2020.
The FIR blames local councillor Sikandar Hayat for the violence. The bandh called by the Rashtriya Janata Dal ended around 12.15 in the afternoon, the document notes, when suddenly a mob of 200, led by Hayat, emerged on the scene. “The mob started beating up shopkeepers, asking them to shut shop,” the FIR read. “When police tried to intervene, the mob chanted slogans against them and started throwing bricks and stones. A brick landed on a policeman’s head, and he got seriously injured. Hayat was egging the protesters on.”
However, a protester who is gearing up for his UPSC exams, requesting anonymity, said Hayat was trying to defuse the matter. “Please do not name me. I am an aspiring civil servant. It could ruin my career,” he said. “A fight broke out between those trying to enforce a bandh and two lads close to the BJP that were trying to defy it. That led to stone pelting between the two groups, and it escalated from there. But when the police started combing the areas to locate anti-social elements, they only looked for Muslims.”
The police have seized 23 mobile phones from 22 of the arrested people that were part of a WhatsApp group called Aawaz do humko. “It was created on 19 December (two days before the protest) in which provocative things were said against the police,” the FIR said, but did not cite those messages. It further added that some of the miscreants were on the terraces, pelting stones at police. The police arrested the ones it could locate, according to the FIR, and the rest got away amidst the crowd.
Shahbaz Nawab, 30, a businessman with a jewellery store, was allegedly detained from a terrace along with five others indulging in stone pelting. However, his brother Sajid has produced two videos to the police. In the first one, Nawab is seen parking his car, and the second shows him getting brutally beaten up by the police immediately after. He is backed up against the shutter of a closed shop, trying to ward off several police officers hurling lathis at him. He is currently in the hospital, being treated for internal injuries.
Among those picked up by the police are four of Mohammad Enamul Rab’s relatives, who were taken from their homes and are now under arrest. One of them is Syed (name changed to protect his identity), who is 12, as is recorded in his school certificate, which Firstpost examined. In the FIR, his age is noted to be 19. The other three to be arrested from his family are his uncle Mukhtar, brother-in-law Rizwan, and brother Imran.
“The police raided our home, and accused them of hiding here,” said Rab, 27, who runs an internet café in Islam Toli. “Ab ghar ka aadmi ghar pe nahi rahega toh kaha rahega? My brother-in-law had come to visit with my sister. There was no lady constable, yet the men in uniform dragged my mother and sister up to the road.”
Rab believes it was a targeted attack. “The police said they are following orders, and asked us to shut up, while they continued to vandalise our home,” he said.
Summing up the events of the day as they unfolded, the UPSC student said, “If there is an honest investigation, the CCTV footage would be available for those who want to see it. It would expose the police for vandalising public property and profiling Muslims.”
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Updated Date: Dec 27, 2019 22:55:35 IST