On December 29, nine days after 20-year-old Mohammad Suleman was shot and killed in Bijnor’s Nehtaur town, The Indian Express reported that the police has registered an FIR against six police officers in Bijnor. The officers include Rajesh Singh Solanki, station house officer of Nehtaur police station, local outpost in-charge Ashish Tomar, and constable Mohit Kumar.
Of these, Mohit Kumar, a personnel in the Special Operations Group, has taken the centrestage of the police crackdown on the citizenship law protests in Bijnor. It was Kumar, according to Bijnor’s superintendent of police Sanjeev Tyagi, who shot and killed Suleman in “self-defense” after the young man first shot him in the stomach.
“A miscreant snatched a pistol of one of our officers and ran away,” Tyagi had told the media last week. “When constable Mohit Kumar chased him, Suleman opened fire at him. Mohit fired at Suleman in self-defense and he died as a result. Mohit’s treatment is still going on in Meerut.”
Zahid Hussain, Suleman’s father, had told Newslaundry that his son had gone to a nearby mosque for prayers on December 20. The police took him away from outside the mosque and shot him in his chest about half a kilometre away, the father had alleged. When the family found Suleman’s body, his shirt was missing.
Mohammad Suleman’s father at his home in Nehtaur.
Newslaundry had earlier reported that the police’s version of Suleman’s death was contradictory, since the additional director general of Bareilly, Avinash Chandra, had provided the media a different version.
Here’s what Chandra told us: “He [Suleman] aim-fired at SP saheb [Tyagi]. In fact, the constable came in the middle all of a sudden. That’s when he was shot and then he retaliated. The SP and the DM were present at the site when the pandemonium occurred. Our constable is still in the hospital in an injured state.”
To add another layer to these contradictions, an interview with constable Mohit Kumar, published in Dainik Jagran’s Meerut edition on December 23, offers a completely different account.
In the interview, Mohit Kumar, mentioned as Mohit Sharma, told the newspaper: “The police administration was cautious after an alert in [Bijnor] district on Friday. Inspection was underway at various places to maintain law and order. Around 2.30 pm, when I reached Nehtaur with senior officers after learning of stone-pelting, thousands were present on the streets. I had never seen a violent crowd in such large numbers.
“To overpower the stone pelters, we went deep into the tense streets, where miscreants surrounded and started beating us mercilessly. Sub-inspector Rakesh Kumar, who was with me, tried to stop them. He said: ‘Leave him, beat me instead.’ They did not stop.”
The interview in Dainik Jagran.
The Jagran story adds: “In the meantime, someone opened fire at Mohit and it hit him in his stomach. He became unconscious and fell. Sub-inspector Rakesh Kumar was also injured. His treatment is underway.”
Newslaundry has learnt that the Dainik Jagran interview was conducted face-to-face with Mohit Kumar when he was admitted at the Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical Collegein Meerut.
The interview contradicts superintendent of police Tyagi’s statement as it does not mention a snatched pistol, or the constable chasing Suleman, or Kumar firing at Suleman in self-defense. It contradicts additional director general Chandra as Kumar does not say that Tyagi was near him when he was shot, or that he took the bullet while defending Tyagi.
When asked about this interview, Tyagi told Newslaundry that the Jagran interview was “wrong” and that the Bijnor police is sending the newspaper a notice in that regard. Tyagi said: “That interview is printed incorrectly. They have published the wrong photo of Mohit Sharma. Jagran has printed a photo of another police officer instead of Mohit Sharma. We’re sending a notice to Jagran. Sharma has also alleged that what the paper has published is distorted. The photo is not of him.”
ADG Avinash Chandra and SP Sanjeev Tyagi with Md Suleman’s family in Nehtaur on December 24.
Newslaundry has learnt that Jagran published the photo of sub-inspector Rakesh Kumar in its interview. But the photo caption just below the picture makes this very clear. The caption states: “Rakesh Sharma, who came to the defense of injured SOG constable Mohit Sharma, is also undergoing treatment at the medical college.”
JP Pandey, editor of Dainik Jagran in Meerut, declined to comment on Tyagi’s allegations.
Newslaundry found another discrepancy in the case. At the LLRM Medical College in Meerut, where Kumar was admitted between December 20 and December 22, the emergency superintendent Harsh Vardhan told Newslaundry that a bullet brushed past Kumar’s abdomen but did not penetrate it. He added that the hospital did not recover a bullet from Kumar’s stomach. A doctor at LLRM who attended Sharma on December 21 confirmed this.
On December 22, Kumar was discharged from LLRM. He hadn’t fully recovered. He admitted himself in the neighbouring private Anand Hospital the same day. Hospital records show that he was discharged from this hospital on December 25. Dhruv Jain, a doctor who attended to Kumar, also told Newslaundry that the bullet had brushed past him.
Hospital records show Mohit Kumar (here, Mohit Sharma) was admitted in Meerut’s Anand Hospital on December 22 and discharged on December 25.
The Bijnor police has claimed that constable Mohit Kumar shot and killed Suleman when the latter fired at him. Kumar had fired in self-defense. The constable, who was supposedly chasing Suleman, according to SP Tyagi, does not say so himself in his interview to Jagran.
The conflicting stories flowing out of the different quarters of the UP police raises questions over its claims about the death of 20-year-old Mohammad Suleman. While all of them cannot be true, it is possible that all of them are false, just like the Bijnor police’s “communal angle”.