Uttar Pradesh – PUDR statement on the death of Khalid Mujahid in police custody


June 11, 2013

PUDR strongly condemns the death of Khalid Mujahid, an undertrial arrested in 2007 in connection with bomb blasts in UP earlier that year. Mujahid died on 19 May, 2013 when he was being escorted by a team of the Uttar Pradesh state police from a court in Faizabad to Lucknow jail. His death while under police escort in what is a clear case of custodial killing raises several questions – the rights of citizens, especially Muslim youth; the character of the police and state; the truth behind terror cases and arrests.

Khalid Mujahid, together with Tariq Qasmi had been shown as arrested on 22 December 2007 from Barabanki railway station. The ATS accused them of being behind the bomb blasts in Lucknow and Faizabad courts in November 2007, and the blast in Gorakhpur, claiming that explosives and other incriminating material were found on the two. The Bahujan Samaj Party, then in power, set up a Commission of Inquiry in March 2008 following protests against the arrests.

The Justice RD Nimesh Commission of Inquiry constituted by the state government to look into this matter submitted its report in December 2012 almost exactly five years after their arrests.

The inquiry commission examined police records, affidavits and testimonies of witnesses. On this basis, it concluded there was ample evidence to show that Tariq Qasmi and Khalid Mujahid were arrested not on 22 December 2007 as claimed, but on 12 December and 16 December respectively. The Commission reports that when the National Loktantrik Party’s youth leader in UP Choudhary Chadrapal threatened to immolate himself on 22 December if by then the two Muslim youth were not released, that the top brass decided to show their arrest on 22 December from Barabanki railway station. The Commission recommended action against the concerned officers and personnel who could be identified.

Despite the conclusions of the report and evidence cited, the now ruling Samajwadi Party too dragged its feet. By the time the government acted on the report, another six months passed. Finally on the basis of the Commission’s report the state government moved an application to withdraw the case. However the Special Court in Barabanki turned down the application in May 2013, claiming that the charges were much too serious. And then, nine days later, Khalid died in police custody, in circumstances which remain mysterious.

Some light can be shed on the so-called mystery by recalling that Khalid’s story is one that is being played out over and over again. The forms may be different but the essential plot and characters remain the same. Bomb blast/s occur. Muslim youth are picked up. Connections with SIMI etc. are alleged; seizure of explosives and extremist literature produced as evidence. In many cases the accused are found to be innocent, having been wrongly incarcerated for years. They are either released on bail or cases withdrawn or they may still continue to be in jail due to various reasons. This, if they are lucky. It isn’t unusual that some like Khalid never return. Not too long back in November 2012 Quateel Siddiqui (arrested for his alleged involvement in the German Bakery blasts) too died in a high security cell in Yerawada jail in Pune, in judicial custody. Again, under so called ‘mysterious circumstances.’ However generally no one is held accountable for the years lost and lives destroyed.

In this context PUDR welcomes the fact that in this case a rare FIR has been filed against 42 police personnel, including the former DG of Police Uttar Pradesh. Whether the case will be properly investigated, and the guilty prosecuted, remains to be seen.

Khalid Mujahid’s arrest, imprisonment and custodial death exposes the brazenness with which the police and ATS routinely arrest Muslim youth under false charges, force ‘confessions’, torture and kill them in custody. It also reveals the callous attitude of elected governments wary of displeasing the police, ATS or the Hindutva elements; and a compromised judiciary for whom terrorist activity requires no proof; guilt is decided by the magnitude of the alleged crime.

These acts of omission and commission expose a disturbing synchronicity between various agencies in terrorizing ordinary citizens, particularly Muslim youth, in the alleged fight against terrorism. The fact that a person could remain incarcerated for years after being abducted illegally and implicated in a fabricated case raises the issue of institutionalization of bias against Muslim youth in the name of fighting ‘terrorism’. Not only does ‘let law takes its course’ approach means years can elapse before those falsely implicated, mostly Muslim youth, win back their freedom. But their struggle to do so through the legal system is now coming under attack from Hindutva forces in an organized way amounting to a violation of the right to legal defense. While protests against Khalid’s custodial death were expressed in several cities in UP including Faizabad immediately afterwards, the local Bar Association passed a resolution expelling Khalid Mujahid’s lawyer Jamal Ahmad. His assistant Mohammad Shakeel was grievously injured. Indeed local bar associations have been issuing diktats that those accused of terror attacks will not be defended by their members and anyone who defies this ban will face expulsion and threat to life. Their recurrent diktats and attacks on lawyers who defy their ban has not persuaded either the High Court/Supreme Court or the Bar Council of India to show any concern over this subversion of the ‘rule of law’.

The death of Khalid Mujahid, raises questions about the police, lower judiciary and legal profession and their commitment to uphold, without discrimination, the constitutionally mandated protection of life and liberty of every citizen. PUDR calls upon all democratically minded people to protest against this attack on democratic rights and violation of the laws of natural justice and demands that:

1. Criminal responsibility be fixed in the in death of Khalid Mujahid and the guilty punished.

2. The Bar Associations expel lawyers obstructing legal aid to the accused, and lawyers guilty of attacking Khalid’s defense counsels be immediately disbarred.

3. Arbitrary picking up and illegal detention of Muslim youth be stopped and officials guilty of their wrongful confinement and fabrication of cases against be prosecuted and punished.

D. Manjit
Asish Gupta
(Secretaries)

 

Order CBI enquiry into the Custodial Killing of Khalid Mujahid


Arrest the guilty Police Officers without delay

Khalid Mujahid, proclaimed by the police as one of the executors of the serial blasts that rocked UP courts in November 2007, died in police custody yesterday (18th May 2013). This young man, with no past medical record, the police claim died of sudden medical complications, on his way back to Lucknow prison, having made his appearance in court in Barabanki in connection with the serial blasts case. In 2011, a report, Torture in India, had documented how custodial killings were rampantly passed off as sudden medical complications and natural deaths (ACHR, p. 8).

Foul Play Obvious:

–       The DIG, Faizabad, Dharmendra Singh Yadav, first announced that his death had been caused by ‘heat wave’ and then the story quickly changed to ‘heart attack’.

–       His lawyer, Md. Shoaib, who met Khalid in the court, and in fact was with him till 3 in the afternoon, had found him to be normal, healthy and in high spirits. Eyewitnesses who saw the body before it was sent for autopsy found signs of bleeding from his mouth and ear.

–       Moreover, Advocate Md. Shoaib has pointed out that whilst he was wearing a kurta pyajama in the court appearance earlier in the day, the dead body wore lowers and T-shirt, clearly indicating foul play.

–       Why was the inquest conducted in such a hurried manner without the presence of Mujahid’s family and lawyer? Indeed, had it not been for the large public mobilization, the police and local administration were planning to conduct the autopsy quickly and secretively.

It may be recalled that while the UP STF had claimed to have arrested Mujahid and Qasmi from the Lucknow Charbagh railway station 22 December 2007, the two has actually been picked up days before in full public view, triggering fears of abduction. There had been demonstrations at the local administration demanding for their release as well as filing of a missing persons complaint before the sensational press conference by the STF announcing their arrests.

The long struggle by the democratic forces in UP against the blatant framing of Khalid Mujahid and Tariq Qasmi in the serial court blasts case, which led to the institution of R.D. Nimesh Commission, and the subsequent dismissal of the police claims about the timing and place of arrest of Mujahid and Qasmi, had made the police establishment in UP very nervous. It was obvious that the public pressure was not simply to release the duo but also to seek the prosecution of those policemen, then in the STF, who had falsely framed them.

In these circumstances the ‘heart attack’ theory looks implausible and a brazen attempt to hide a blatant case of custodial killing.

We reject the UP Chief Minister’s announcement of a High powered enquiry committee packed with senior bureaucrats and high ranking UP police officers. We demand that:

1)   Khalid Mujahid’s death be treated as a case of custodial killing and a case of murder be booked against those police officers escorting him;

2)   Those policemen named in the FIR filed by Khalid Mujahid’s family in the early hours today, should be arrested without delay

3)   A CBI enquiry be ordered into the incident;

4)   The post mortem report and the videography of the postmortem be made public;

5)   The Chief Minister should assure the safety and protection of Tariq Qasmi and other accused in the case;

6)   The Chief Minister should immediately order compensation to the family of Khalid Mujahid.

Sd/-

Teesta Setalavad (activist, Mumbai); Shabnam Hashmi (ANHAD), Kavita Srivastava (PUCL); Ahmed Sohaib (JTSA); Mansi Sharma (activist, Delhi); Mahtab Alam (activist, Delhi); Manisha Sethi (JTSA), Kamayani Bali Mahbaal, Human righst activist , Mumbai

 

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