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India protests: Families blame police for deaths

Fear, anxiety in Bijnor district, Uttar Pradesh, as families allege police barged into homes after anti-citizenship law protest

Shuriah Niazi   | 31.12.2019
India protests: Families blame police for deaths

UTTAR PRADESH, India

Fear and despair loom large in the Bijnor district in western Uttar Pradesh (UP) province, some 150 kilometers (93 miles) from national capital New Delhi, even more than a week after two men were killed and 131 arrested by police. 

The violence had erupted in the district against the new citizenship law, seen discriminatory against Muslims.

The district located to the east of River Ganges and in the foothills of Himalayas houses 43.94% Muslim population, according to the census conducted in 2011.

Anas, 21, and Mohammed Suleiman, 20, were allegedly shot at by the police in Nehtaur, a city in the district. Muslims make up 70% of the population in Nehtaur.

On December 20, a large number of people took to the streets against the citizenship law in many places in India. Both the youth were killed after Friday Namaaz (prayers) when people had gathered to protest against the contentious Citizenship Act, said Suleiman's mother Akbari Khatoon.

She said Suleiman was preparing to crack the civil services examination, one of the toughest qualifying tests to seek entry into the top Indian bureaucracy. It is a dream for every student in India to crack this test.

“He would spend night and day just studying, preparing for the test. They killed my wonderful, hard-working son,” she said.

Pointing towards a rack full of books and competitive test journals, Khatoon said they (policemen) killed her bright son, who had an impressive academic record.

Suleiman's family says that he had gone to the mosque to offer prayers. “He was in no way part of protests. He was shot as soon as he was coming out of the mosque,” said his mother.

Suleiman's brother Shoaib has complained that six policemen, including Nehtaur’s former police station, in-charge Rajesh Solanki, sub-inspector Ashish Tomar, and constable Mohit Tomar, were responsible for killing his brother.

The region where the majority of Muslims are reeling under poverty, coupled with social and educational backwardness, Suleiman’s dream to qualify the civil service test was being lauded by relatives and neighbors. Two leading 16th-century scholars of the Mughal empire Abul Fazal and Faizi are believed to have been born and studied in the district.

Case registered against policemen

Additional Superintendent of Police (Rural) Vishwajit Srivastava told Anadolu Agency that a complaint had been received against the police personnel and a case has been registered.

Family members of Anas, another youngster killed on that day, claim that he had gone out to buy milk when he was shot. His son is just 7 months old. There is an atmosphere of grief in the family.

To add salt to injury, both families were not allowed to bury the dead in the town. “We had to take bodies to a faraway graveyard, as the administration did not allow to bury bodies nearby. Their last rites were conducted 20 km away, “said Arshad Hussain, father of Anas.

Defending the act, Bijnor District Magistrate Ramakant Pandey said, the step was taken to avoid the situation to deteriorate further.

An Uttar Pradesh minister, who visited the city refused to meet the families Suleiman and Anas, terming them "upadravi" (vandals).

Kapil Dev Agarwal, the minister for vocational education and skill development, however, visited Om Raj Saini, a Hindu, who was injured in the violence.

The main opposition Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra met the families of dead and demanded a judicial inquiry into the conduct of police officers. In a 14-page memorandum to Governor Anandiben Patel, the Congress party said the conduct of the police had been observed and reported to be "patently unlawful, destructive of the rule of law and repressive of honest citizens".

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