Major raid, ‘minor’ arrests

Locked up: Nasimuddin’s house remains shut in Islam Nagar, Khatauli. He has been absconding since the police raid in December.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

On a foggy January morning in a cramped street of Khatauli’s Islam Nagar, a group of early risers is busy discussing the arrest of nine persons from the neighbourhood on the charge of cow slaughter in the early hours of December 29 last year.

Do nirdosh padosi thhe aur teen bacche [two of those arrested were innocent neighbours and three were minors],” says Qazi Jameel, a cycle rickshaw puller, sipping his first cup of tea.

He gives the benefit of the doubt to the other accused as well, but says their innocence may be difficult to prove as they are adults and closely related with those who have previously been charged with the same offence.

Jameel is talking about Wakeel and Nasimuddin — two members of the family which is currently lodged in Muzaffarnagar jail — who have been charged with animal cruelty and attempt to murder among other offences by the Muzaffarnagar police. While Wakeel surrendered a month and a half ago, Nasimuddin is absconding.

The raid

Early morning on December 29, the Muzaffarnagar police raided the neighbourhood where Wakeel and Nasimuddin lived and arrestednine persons, including three minors (as per their Aadhaar cards), three women and three men on charges of cow slaughter and attempt to murder. The police claimed they arrested the accused red-handed and seized cowhides, meat and butchering knives from the spot.

The three children were produced as adults in court and sent to jail along with the others.

Recalling the raid, Mohd Haseen, (33), youngest brother of Wakeel, says it was 5.30 a.m. when the police broke open the godown and found slaughtered cows there. “All our women and children were sleeping in their respective houses when the raid was carried out. The officers woke them up and arrested them,” he says.

The suspects

Haseen, who stays with his family a few metres away, witnessed the scene from a distance as he got scared. “I heard some commotion and immediately ran towards the godown. The way the police were arresting people, I did not dare to go close,” he says.

Among those arrested were Wakeel’s wives Afsana and Reshma, his 15-year-old son (according to his Aadhaar card), Nasimuddin’s wife Shehzadi, their 13- and 17-year-old daughters (as per their Aadhaar card), Shehzadi’s brother Shahbaaz and two neighbours Ashfaq (60) and his son Mehtab (30). Nasimuddin and his three associates Danish, Monu, and Ashraf are currently on the run.

Admits to cow slaughter

Haseen admits that slaughtered cows were found in the godown belonging to the family and suspects that it may have been done by the four persons who are absconding.

“But how is it the fault of those who have been arrested,” he asks.

“They (Wakeel and Nasimuddin) live in houses next to each other. The police almost broke open the doors of their houses, gave knives to the family members and brought them to the godown,” he alleges, adding that Nasimuddin may have been tipped off about the police raid and hence he fled.

The officers then barged into the house which has a connecting wall with the godown and arrested Ashfaq and Mehtab, says Haseen.

Recalling their arrest, Mehtab’s wife Heena, (25), in tears, says, “Abba had just come out of the washroom, he had no idea what was happening. He merely asked the police what they were doing. Mehtab had just returned after namaz.” Heena says no lady officers entered their house and when she cried for help, an officer kicked her in the stomach.

The neighbours claim that the police took Ashfaq and Mehtab to the godown and smeared blood on their clothes to nail them. “Hum Syed [people who claim to trace their lineage to the Prophet] hain, hum aisa kar hi nai sakte [We are Syeds, we can’t do anything like this]. Everyone in our family is into car repairing or working as labourers,” says Ashfaq’s wife Shahjana (55).

Her claims are rubbished by Station House Officer of Khatauli police station Ambika Prasad Bhardwaj who insists that all the accused were caught “red-handed”. “When the raid was conducted, they were slaughtering cows and had knives in their hands. There was blood all over and about 10 quintals of cowhide was recovered along with 10 knives,” he says. However, the neighbours claim about 2 quintal of cowhide was recovered.

The age factor

On the arrest of the three minors, Mr. Bhardwaj asserts that they “appeared” to be adults. “I can show you their photo, you won’t be able to differentiate between the mother and the daughters. So is case with the boy. When we asked them their age, they all said 19-20,” he claims, adding that Aadhaar card is not admissible in court. “All of them were presented in front of the magistrate, he, too, didn’t question their age,” says Mr. Bhardwaj.

Asked about Aadhaar’s validity as an age proof in court, Advocate Abhishek Kumar Pathak says, “The Aadhaar card is only a proof of one’s identity. In a rural set up, one can approach the Block Pramukh or their equivalent to give it in writing that the child was born on a particular date. The document can be given to the concerned authorities which issue birth and death certificates.”

Another officer at the police station goes on to explain that “it’s only natural for Wakeel and Nasimuddin’s children to be slaughtering cows” because “if you’re a truck driver’s child, you would naturally know how to repair vehicles and if you are a kasai’s (butcher’s) child, you would naturally engage in slaughtering.”

Marriage concern

When asked about the role of the neighbours, Ashfaq and Mehtab, Mr. Bhardwaj says, “They were also present there during slaughtering.”

Haseen claims that Nasimuddin and Shehzadi got married in 2000 and they might be able to produce the nikahnama as evidence for the children’s age, but the house is locked and all the family members are lodged in jail. “We don’t even know where the nikahnama is kept,” he says.

Shahjahan, the grandmother of the two girls, is worried about their future. Sitting in the courtyard of Haseen’s house in a light pink salwar kameez, she says the girls haven’t eaten the food provided in the jail.

“The elder one is so shy and quiet, she can’t even think of slaughtering an animal. The girls haven’t eaten anything. A few good ladies give them homemade food and that’s how they are surviving,” she says.

“How will we get the girls married? A charge of attempt to murder has been slapped on them,” says a visibly worried Haseen. “We had planned to get them married in a few years. People already know that their father and uncle have criminal cases registered against them. Now the girls too have been taken to jail. Who will marry them?”

Mr. Bhardwaj says they slapped Section 307 (attempt to murder) along with the other charges because the family members allegedly attacked the policemen with knives when they raided the premises. However, when questioned if anyone got injured, he responds, “No officer sustained injuries.”

Encounter fear

Talking about Wakeel’s criminal history — he has 15 cases registered against him — Haseen alleges, “He was picked up whenever a robbery or dacoity took place in the area, even if he wasn’t remotely connected to the crime. He would have been killed in an encounter had he not surrendered.”

Haseen says even he has been picked up a couple of times just because of his association with Wakeel and Nasimuddin.

Hum pashu palan karte thhe aur bhains ka doodh bechte thhe. Mahaul itna kharab hai ki humein yeh kaam teen mahine pehle band karna pada [I used to run a dairy and sell buffalo milk, but the general climate is so hostile that I shut it three months ago].”

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 10:48:21 PM |

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