On May 20 this year, the corpses of two unidentified women were found in a sugarcane field at Jaganpur village in Kairana, Uttar Pradesh. The police filed an FIR for murder as the young women bore head injuries, and launched a manhunt for potential suspects. On June 7, the police landed up at Hashim Ali’s house at Khurgan village, and took away him and his daughter, Nida.
“They beat up my father, then they beat me,” said Nida, 18, who was held in the Kairana police station for 36 hours without being charged. “I was told to give a false statement that I had seen those two girls somewhere or I would be sent to jail where I would be raped.”
A newspaper report on the incident.
On July 18, the police arrived again. This time, they took away Hashim, his wife Shazia, and their other daughter, Sadaf. The women in the family had locked themselves up in a room when three police vehicles stopped outside their gate, but the policemen broke down the door and barged in.
Sadaf, 21, who is studying for a master’s in botany, claimed they were beaten up in their home before being taken to the Kairana police station, where they were subjected to verbal abuse and torture. “They gave us electric shocks and beat us badly,” Sadaf alleged. “Our statements were recorded around 4-5 pm but we were kept in custody till midnight.”
Showing her wrists, she added, “See, they gave us electric shocks. And I can’t even tell you the kind of abuses hurled at us.” She was also slapped hard, and repeatedly, and she can no longer hear properly.
Bruises left after the custodial torture.
Sadaf, like her sister, was told to admit that the dead women were known to the family, she alleged. She wouldn’t because she didn’t even know who they were, Sadaf said. And neither did Nida.
Sadaf and Nida were physically assaulted while in police custody
That Hashim, Shazia and Sadaf were assaulted was later confirmed by doctors at Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where they went for treatment on July 22. The medico-legal case sheet prepared by the hospital mentions “physical assault” as provisional diagnosis. They had previously been examined by a local doctor, who found “multiple contusions” on Shazia’s body and an “old bruise, greenish in colour, on right forearm” of Sadaf.
Sadaf's medico-legal casesheet.
Hashim has sent seven letters seeking action against the police officials who allegedly tortured him and his family. He has written to chief minister Adityanath, deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma, the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Women, the director general of police, and the ADG, Meerut Zone.
On October 29, the NCW asked the state’s police chief to submit an action taken report on Hashim’s complaint within seven days. In a letter signed by its member Kamlesh Gautam, the commission noted that similar letters sent by it on August 5 and 6 had received no response. The October 29 letter did not elicit a response either, so the NCW wrote to Shamli’s police chief – Kairana is in Shamli district – seeking an action taken report within 30 days. A similar notice was sent by the NHRC as well.
Letter to the NHRC.
Nityanand Rai, Shamli’s SP at the time, told Newslaundry they had replied to the NHRC’s letter, but refused to share any details. It is not clear if they have responded to the NCW.
Rai was replaced on December 2 by Sukirti Madhav. Newslaundry asked him about the allegations made by Hashim’s family and about the letters sent by the NCW. “This pertains to the previous SP. On perusal it is found that an enquiry had been ordered by previous SP where the allegations were not proved,” Madhav responded.
A police official however told Newslaundry on the condition of anonymity that while an investigation, led by a circle officer, had indeed been started, it went nowhere. “The sub inspector was involved in the said incident,” the official said.
Though Yashpal Dhama, who led the raid on Hashim’s home, has been taken off duty, the police haven’t filed an FIR thus far. Hashim plans to move court now.
“Illegal detention amounts to violation of fundamental rights,” Hashim’s lawyer, Akram Akhtar Choudhary, said. “A male constable interrogating a woman and trying to touch her, pull hair amounts to sexual assault.”
‘They misbehaved with my wife and daughter’
Sitting in the room where she had locked herself in with her daughters, Shazia pointed to the door which had to be repaired after it was broken down by the police. “If they wanted to question us, they should have done a regular interrogation,” she said. Instead, she added, the police “beat us really badly. They used belts to beat us up, gave us electric shocks, and pulled our hair.”
Her husband, she said, was taken away six times for interrogation. The family have pictures of bruises on their hands and legs from the alleged torture by the police, and Shazia said they have submitted them as evidence with their complaint.
Nida showing a recent MRI scan
“They misbehaved with my wife and daughter. I’m a poor man, barely able to take care of my family,” said Hashim, exasperated. “What will happen to them now?”
Hashim, a school bus driver, broke down as he recounted what he and his family had to go through. “They thrust my face in water, gave me electric shocks, and beat me up,” he said, adding that he was finding it difficult to walk now, his legs giving up on him even during daily ablutions.
The police had first arrested Hashim’s brother-in-law and allegedly told the family to pay a bribe for freeing him. They paid Rs 6 lakh, Hashim claimed, but the police continued to pressure them to admit to involvement in the death of the two women. “I was told if we paid the amount they would spare us. So, I sold my buffaloes and took out some money from my savings to pay them,” Hashim alleged.
‘We get uncomfortable stares from everyone’
According to a local journalist who didn’t want to be named for fear of reprisals, the Kairana police were under pressure to solve the case of the unidentified women quickly. This is why, he suggested, the police were allegedly trying to beat out a confession from Hashim’s family.
After it became known that Hashim and his family had been tortured in custody, the journalist said, some local reporters asked the police about it, only to be stonewalled.
It was only after an activist who runs the Facebook page “Gujjar Fan Club” – Hashim is from the Gujjar community – spoke live with the family that some local newspapers picked up the story.
“Our family has been shattered,” said Sadaf. “We get uncomfortable stares from everyone now. They all must be wondering what’s the point of being friends with them.”
Names have been changed to protect identity.
Kurban Ali contributed reporting.