Who killed Maruf Ali in Delhi's communal carnage? Fellow Muslims, police say
Shambhavi Thakur
Investigating the Delhi Riots

Who killed Maruf Ali in Delhi's communal carnage? Fellow Muslims, police say

Muslim victims and witnesses accuse the police of fabricating and distorting their statements to protect the alleged Hindu killers of an electrician in North Ghonda.

By

Ayush Tiwari

Basant Kumar

Published on :

Haroon Ali and Shamshad are perplexed. They sit morosely in Haroon’s modest home inside the narrow, zigzagging lanes of Subhash Mohalla in North Ghonda, Northeast Delhi. Their predicament lies in a chargesheet filed by the Delhi police’s crime branch in the murder of Haroon’s brother Maruf Ali, who was shot dead by a mob barely yards from his home on the night of February 25, 2020.

It was the third day of the communal carnage in the capital that left at least 53 people dead and hundreds injured. Shamshad, 25, who was shot in his abdomen moments before Maruf, remembers the faces in the mob, and so does Haroon: they were their neighbours.

“The names we gave to the Delhi police on multiple occasions do not find any mention in the chargesheet,” Haroon complained. “The men who killed him still roam free in the neighbourhood and harass us.”

On June 8, the crime branch filed four chargesheets in cases related to the Delhi carnage — which began hours after an incendiary speech by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Kapil Mishra at Maujpur on February 23 — and lasted over 72 hours. One of the chargesheets pertains to the killing of Maruf, 32, who left behind a family with two children.

“A mob that was raising slogans in support of NRC and CAA arrived and pelted stones and opened fire. Maruf sustained a gunshot wound to his head while Shamshad sustained a gunshot injury in his abdomen,” states a note prepared by the crime branch that was quoted in the media.

“Further investigation is on,” it adds, indicating that the chargesheet is open-ended.

The Print and Newsclick reported that the six men arrested for Maruf’s murder were Hindu. However, the chargesheet, accessed by Newslaundry, shows that only two are Hindu and the rest Muslim.

The chargesheet as well as the FIR and the information provided by the police point to contradictions in its version of the incident and lapses in the investigation. Then there are allegations of fabrication and distortion of recorded statements which the victims see as an attempt to save the actual murderers who live in the same neighbourhood as Maruf’s family.

In May, a Delhi court told the police that its investigation into February’s carnage was “targeted only towards one end” and observed that “it failed to point out what investigation has been carried out so far regarding the involvement of the rival faction”. The court was hearing an application for judicial remand of Jamia Millia Islamia student Asif Iqbal Tanha.

Maruf Ali, 32, was an electrician in Northeast Delhi.
Maruf Ali, 32, was an electrician in Northeast Delhi.
B Block of Subhash Mohalla in Delhi’s North Ghonda.
B Block of Subhash Mohalla in Delhi’s North Ghonda.

What happened on February 25?

In late February, the Delhi police set up three Special Investigation Teams, or SITs, within its crime branch to investigate “all riot-related cases”. On June 8, the crime branch named the six men accused of murdering Maruf and attacking Shamshad, and booked them under the Indian Penal Code provisions related to murder as well as the Arms Act. The accused are Shuaib Saifi, Imran Khan, Mohammad Dilshad, Mohammad Imran, Manoj Kumar, and Navin Tyagi.

The arrest of four Muslim men doesn’t square with the Delhi police’s claim that Maruf and Shamshad were attacked by a mob comprising supporters of the citizenship law and the National Register of Citizens. Moreover, the chargesheet says the four men, and Manoj, were identified by Shamshad from CCTV footage, a claim that the victim flatly denies.

Newslaundry met Shamshad and Haroon in Subhash Mohalla’s Lane 3 to get an account of what happened on the night of February 25.

“There was violence and arson in our area on February 24. The next day, in the afternoon, Maruf shifted material from our shop to another location because Muslim properties were being targetted,” said Haroon, 42, who runs a shop selling electrical hardware in North Ghonda. “At night, when we heard that a local supermarket had been sacked, Maruf suggested that we should go and check on our shop. As we were returning home at around 11 pm, we saw an armed gathering in the adjacent street shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Maardo in Mullo Ko’. One of them was Bobby, a local, who shot Shamshad in the abdomen near the end of our lane.”

Shamshad told Newslaundry that he was out to buy milk when he was attacked.

When Haroon and Maruf rushed towards Shamshad, Ram Singh, a local man who was allegedly leading the mob, yelled “Maar saale kattuon ko”. “Sonu, another local who had a gun, then shot at my brother. It hit him near the eye,” Haroon said.

The police’s chargesheet, based on testimonies and technical evidence, brackets this incident between 10.45 pm and 11.05 pm on February 25.

Maruf’s postmortem report, obtained by Newslaundry, states that he died from a “cranio-cerebral injury” after being shot in the head by a firearm from a distance.

Haroon and Shamshad recognised four other local men in the mob apart from Bobby, Ram Singh, and Sonu — Yogi, Lala, Mohit, and Abhishek. “Lala and Mohit were armed with guns too,” said Shamshad.

Shamshad and Maruf were taken to a local hospital on two scooters by Haroon’s relatives, Firoz, Shahid and Arshad, while Haroon went home. When the hospital refused to treat them, they drove to the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash hospital near Delhi Gate, where Maruf was declared dead on arrival.

Shamshad was treated and discharged two days later.

At 12.30 am on February 26, about an hour after Maruf was declared dead, the police knocked at Haroon’s door. He did not open it.

“The police and the rioters were on the same side,” he told Newslaundry, “I could not trust them.”

The spot where Shamshad and Maruf were shot. The bullet came from down the alley.
The spot where Shamshad and Maruf were shot. The bullet came from down the alley.
Haroon Ali at his home.
Haroon Ali at his home.

At 1 am, assistant sub-inspector Vedpal, from the nearby Bhajanpura police station, arrived at Haroon’s home and assured him that he would be safe. Haroon relented and explained the sequence of events from earlier that night.

“He wrote down everything,” Haroon said. “I told him the names of the members of the mob too. He made me sign on that piece of paper, and also on a few blank papers.”

In the evening on February 26, an FIR regarding Maruf’s killing was registered at the Bhajanpura police station. Quoting Haroon, it states: “People who were raising slogans in support of NRC and CAA and shouting Jai Shri Ram...pelted stones and deliberately shot my neighbour Shamshad and my brother Maruf with the intention to kill.”

When Haroon got a copy of the FIR a few days later, he found that it did not name the men he had told the police shot Maruf and Shamshad. There was no separate FIR for the attack on Shamshad.

This pattern of the police not recording the names of the accused provided by a key eyewitness didn’t change when the crime branch took over the case a few days later; it continued until the chargesheet was filed in June.

‘The FIR contains lies’

The crime branch launched its investigation into Maruf’s murder on February 29. That same day, Lokendra Chauhan, the investigating officer, met Haroon at his house. “I told him everything all over again. How it happened and the names of those who killed my brother. I even showed him their homes in the neighbourhood,” Haroon recalled.

The inner case diary of the crime branch, accessed by Newslaundry, contains the statements of Haroon and Shamshad, obtained under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Haroon’s statement, dated February 29, reads: “I did not see anyone shoot nor do I recognise anyone in the mob that gathered near Thakur halwai’s shop.”

Haroon denied making such a statement. On April 20, he sent a complaint to the deputy commissioner of the crime branch, with a copy to prime minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah. “When I told them the FIR from February 26 didn’t state what I had said and instead contained lies,” he wrote, referring to police officers at the Bhajanpura station, “the duty officer said my case had been transferred to the crime branch and I should take it up with them.”

The complaint added that when Haroon approached Lokendra Chauhan of the SIT, he assured him that the police would “write down everything”, including the names of Maruf’s alleged killers.

“At the Yamuna Vihar SIT office, they made me sign several papers. Till date I haven’t received a copy of the FIR registered by the SIT, nor have the accused been arrested,” he continued. “The crime branch now says that both you and the accused have to live here, and what’s the point of harbouring enmity? They asked us to resolve it amongst ourselves.”

In his complaint, Haroon listed the addresses of the men who allegedly shot Maruf and Shamshad. Sonu, Bobby, Mohit, and Lala live in Lane 2; Ram Singh lives in Lane 20; and Abhishek in Lane 6. Yogi purportedly runs a mobile shop nearby.

Haroon’s complaint from April 20 alleging that the Delhi police did not record his statement truthfully.
Haroon’s complaint from April 20 alleging that the Delhi police did not record his statement truthfully.

Yet, in the chargesheet filed on June 8, seen by Newslaundry, only a single sentence is attributed to Haroon, in the section titled “Examination and recording of statements of other important witnesses”. “Pointing out of S.O.C but could not identify any rioter,” it reads, meaning the scene of crime.

Haroon also alleged in his complaint that the crime branch had told him to dig up information on the men he claimed were involved in his brother’s murder. A statement attributed to Haroon and noted down in the inner case diary on March 3 acknowledges this: “I tried my best but I wasn’t able to find anything on these people. I tried to get information about the perpetrators in the neighbourhood but I couldn’t find anything. I will readily inform you if I find anything.”

Haroon told Newslaundry that the police did ask him to investigate Maruf’s killers but he did not do so. The reason for this, as recorded in his complaint from April 20, was his own safety: “I was called to the SIT office in Yamuna Vihar and asked to look into the accused. I said that if I go alone, anything can happen to me.”

Haroon’s complaint contained allegations of manipulation and distortion in the police’s investigation into his brother’s killing. But it begs the question: why would the Special Investigation Team of a professional police force ask a murder victim’s brother to dig up information on the accused?

‘SIT is protecting the perpetrators’

Shamshad was shot moments before Maruf was killed. His statements to the police, therefore, assume greater importance.

In its chargesheet, the police claim that Shamshad alone identified five of the six accused men from CCTV footage. The crime branch’s inner case diary records two statements under Shamshad’s name. The first, recorded on February 29, reads: “I didn’t see anyone shoot.”

The second from March 30 addresses Chauhan, the investigating officer, “Today, you came to my home and showed me videos and identified the above mentioned names who were involved in rioting. There were more people with them who I can’t properly identify at the moment.”

None of the men Shamshad saw that night — Bobby, Ram Singh, Sonu, Yogi, Lala, Mohit and Abhishek — are named in either statement.

That isn’t a coincidence: Shamshad emphatically denied giving either of these statements to the police or identifying suspects from videos or CCTV footage.

“This is absolutely wrong. I did not identify anyone. I gave the crime branch the names of those who committed the murders,” Shamshad said. “They still roam free and try to intimidate us. They get together often and if they see me they laugh and say, ‘Is kattue ne mera naam liya hai’.” This kattua — a slur used against the Muslim community — gave my name to the police.

Shamshad, 25, was shot in his abdomen.
Shamshad, 25, was shot in his abdomen.

Like Haroon, Shamshad sent the Delhi police a complaint about its investigation on April 20. The letter was sent to the station house officer of the Bhajanpura police station, and copied to Modi and Amit Shah. It stated that Shamshad gave the names of Sonu, Bobby, Mohit, Ram Singh, Lala, and Sahil to investigating officer Chauhan two or three days after he was discharged from the LNJP hospital.

“He also took the jacket I was wearing and made me sign 8-10 pieces of paper and a few blank papers as well saying they were for a forensic investigation of the jacket,” Shamshad wrote.

In March, Shamshad’s complaint stated, the SIT visited him multiple times at home, and made him sign blank papers once again. They also seized his mobile phone. On April 14, two SIT officers asked him to come to the Jag Pravesh Chandra hospital in Shahdara and submit a blood sample. “When I asked them why they wanted my blood, they said inspector Chauhan had asked for it,” Shamshad wrote. “When we asked for a receipt, they said SIT never gives receipts. They never gave us one.”

Shamshad’s complaint to the Bhajanpura SHO, alleging that the SIT was protecting the perpetrators.
Shamshad’s complaint to the Bhajanpura SHO, alleging that the SIT was protecting the perpetrators.

Shamshad told Newslaundry that when he pushed the officers about his blood sample, they said, “If you don’t give your blood sample now, only you will face problems in the future.”

“I was afraid, so I gave my blood,” he added.

In his complaint, Shamshad worried about his safety: “I think the SIT is protecting the perpetrators. Please carry out an investigation against these accused and protect my life.”

The chargesheet refers to the men identified by Haroon and Shamshad in passing, without naming them. “Complainant Md Harun and injured Shamshad have also named some other persons as the part of the mob,” it states. “Detailed verification regarding some of them has been done which revealed that they weren’t present at the SOC of the present incident, although further investigation against them is still continuing.”

This not only goes against the testimonies of Haroon and Shamshad but contradicts an eyewitness account of the events of February 25.

Shaheen, 38, a resident of Lane 2 in Subhash Mohalla, sent a letter to the Bhajanpura station house officer on April 14 narrating how she had watched mobs take fuel from parked vehicles to torch Muslim properties in the neighbourhood on February 25.

At night, Shaheen recalled, she decided to seek safety at a relative’s house. On her way, she claimed, she saw Bobby and Sonu, part of a mob armed with sticks, swords and guns. “Then I saw Bobby shoot Shamshad, who was standing in Lane 3. As soon as the bullet hit him, Bobby shouted, ‘Maar diya ek aur kattua sala’. Sonu fired a shot that hit Maruf in the face and he fell.”

The next morning, Shaheen wrote, she saw Bobby and Sonu “collecting cartridges from the lane to erase evidence of which I have a video”. In spite of all this, she said, her complaints weren’t registered at the Bhajanpura police station. “Instead, Bobby now threatens to send me to hell. He pressures me to give him the video and delete it from my phone,” she added.

Shaheen, right, with a neighbour at her home in Subhash Mohalla, Ghonda.
Shaheen, right, with a neighbour at her home in Subhash Mohalla, Ghonda.

Shaheen, like Haroon and Shamshad, ended her letter with a plea for protection: “Sir, these people have connections in the police who are in cahoots with them. So these people are out of control.”

Other curious statements

On July 7, Newslaundry met investigating officer Chauhan at his crime branch office in Daryaganj. He declined to speak on the record.

The same day, we met a senior officer from the crime branch who acknowledged that he had received Haroon and Shamshad’s complaints. “We are investigating the matter, and we will respond to it,” the officer said, asking, “Why did they take two months to register this complaint?”

Statements attributed to Haroon and Shamshad aren’t the only red flags in the crime branch’s chargesheet. Several other statements recorded in the inner case diary are replete with odd, often clumsy, repetitions.

At least three witness testimonies contain this same sentence: “I did not see anyone shoot nor do I recognise anyone in the mob that gathered near Thakur halwai’s shop.”

The testimonies are attributed to three men who accompanied Maruf and Shamshad to the LNJP hospital on February 25 — Mohammad Shahid, his father Firoz and friend Arshad.

Save for a couple of sentences, the statements reportedly made by Firoz, Shahid and Arshad are identical. In a rather amusing instance, the testimonies of both Shahid and his father Firoz refer to Maruf as “mere bhai ka saala”, or my brother’s brother-in-law.

‘My brother’s killers have terrorised the neighbourhood’

If Haroon and Shamshad feared for their safety after the carnage, the SIT’s conduct in the following months did not help. On May 16, the crime branch issued a summons, directing them to appear at its office in Daryaganj on May 18 over their complaints dated April 20.

Haroon was reluctant. “Our lawyers told them that a lockdown is in place, and we did not want to get infected with coronavirus,” he told Newslaundry.

On the morning of May 18, Haroon and Shamshad sent the crime branch a response over WhatsApp and did not go to Daryaganj. On May 19, the Delhi police sent a car with officers dressed in PPE kits to take the two to its office. Haroon and Shamshad complied.

At the police station, Haroon and Shamshad were directed to sit in a room with Sonu, whom they accused of killing Maruf, and Yogi, who was allegedly part of the mob on February 25.

“The SIT had taken Sonu, Bobby and Yogi to the crime branch. Bobby was in another room, but we were made to sit in a room where Sonu and Yogi were present,” Haroon said. “Sonu told me, ‘Mulla tune hamaare khilaf complaint kari hai. Jaise tere bhai ko maara hai, waise tera bhi bheja uda denge.’” Mulla, you have filed a complaint against us. We will blow your brains out just like we did your brother’s. Mulla is a derogatory term used for Muslims.

“Sonu was abusing us at the crime branch,” Shamshad told Newslaundry. “He said we were acting smart and that we wield influence here as well.”

On May 23, Haroon and Shamshad narrated this ordeal, along with other concerns, in a second complaint to the police. The complaint was addressed to senior police officials such as the deputy commissioner for crime Rajesh Deo as well as to the prime minister and the home minister.

The complaint stated: “Since the accused learnt of our written complaint [of April 20] against them, they and their local political leaders have terrorised not just our families but the entire neighbourhood. We are scared to leave our homes because we might be killed too.”

It added that a senior officer at the crime branch “whom we can identify by face” had asked them why the Delhi police should consider their April 20 complaints, given that it came two months after the incidents of February 25. “He asked us whether we knew what IPC 302 was about. If we slap that section on a tree, it would shed its leaves and go dry. He said he could not ruin the lives of his boys over our complaint, so he would not accept it.”Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code relates to punishment for murder.

In their joint complaint, Haroon and Shamshad reiterated that they had brought up the matter with assistant sub-inspector Vedpal in February and, later, Chauhan of the SIT.

The complaint stated that after meeting the senior officer of the crime branch, Haroon and Shamshad were made to provide statements to a few policemen once again. “They printed it out and presented it to IO Chauhan, who edited it and asked the typist to make some changes. He asked us to go out. A few minutes later, he took us to the gallery and asked us to sign the statement. When we said we would like to read it first, he threatened us and said we need not act like angrez. We were scared and we signed it.”

This entire episode at Daryaganj, Haroon and Shamshad wrote, could be verified from CCTV footage at the crime branch office and treated as evidence in the case “so that everything becomes crystal clear”.

The harassment purportedly did not stop at the crime branch’s office. Haroon said in his complaint, and reiterated to Newslaundry, that a few hours after he returned home on May 19 evening, a mob gathered in the neighbourhood. “Bobby, Sonu and Yogi were in the mob. They had returned from the crime branch. They were sloganeering in the neighbourhood and fired shots near our house,” Haroon alleged.

The senior crime branch official Newslaundry met acknowledged that the police had received Haroon and Shamshad’s joint complaint of May 23, but denied that they had been harassed. “No harassment was done.”

Newslaundry emailed a detailed questionnaire to the Delhi police on July 11 about the chargesheet and the allegations made by Haroon and Shamshad. They did not reply. We sent it again on July 15. This report will be updated if a response is received.

This is the first part of a two-part report on the murder of Maruf Ali. The report is part of a series looking at the police’s handling of the investigation into the 2020 Delhi carnage.

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