When 22-year-old Mushahid gained consciousness on 8 April, he found himself on a hospital bed. Mushahid is a resident Khajuri Khas, one of several areas in northeast Delhi that witnessed anti-Muslim violence in February 2020. On the afternoon of 7 April, Mushahid told me, three men sat in his e-rickshaw that he drives around Khajuri Khas and asked him to take them to a factory in Gokulpuri. Upon reaching, he said, they offered him a cold drink, and then threatened to kill him and his entire family if he did not withdraw a complaint he had filed about the Delhi violence. Mushahid had accused the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Mohan Singh Bisht, among other Hindu locals, of attacking his neighbourhood. The last thing he remembered was one of the men slapping him hard. His emergency-registration card, recorded at 11:02 pm on 7 April, stated, “Ingestion of unknown substance mixed in cold drink by some unknown person 8.30 pm today. Found unconscious at Gokulpuri.”
Mushahid had fled Delhi following the communal violence last year. He returned only in September, to join his father as an e-rickshaw driver, and to pursue his master of arts in political science through a correspondence course. He told me he returned because he was emboldened by others in his neighbourhood who had filed police complaints against the perpetrators of the violence. Among those who inspired him to return was Mumtaz Mohammad, another resident of Khajuri Khas, whose account I earlier reported for The Caravan. Mumtaz, too, had named Bisht in his police complaint, and said he subsequently faced threats from local residents and the police.
Mushahid filed his complaint on 13 September. In it, he described incidents of communal violence that he witnessed on 23, 24 and 25 February 2020. In each incident, he named Hindu residents of Khajuri Khas whom he saw carry out acts of violence, and recounted their communal sloganeering, as well as slogans hailing the Delhi Police and Bisht. He also wrote that he overheard the perpetrators discuss that they had received instructions from Bisht that “not even one Muslim should survive, and the police are with us, nobody can harm us.” Mushahid wrote that on 23 February, he was at the Sanjar Chicken Corner in Khajuri Khas, which is owned by Mumtaz, when a large group of people began pelting stones into the shop and ransacked it.
Mushahid wrote that the next day, when he stepped out of his house around 5 pm, he saw Hindu locals from the neighbourhood loot and then burn down Muslim-owned businesses. This included the motorcycle shop of one Maqbool. Mushahid wrote that he saw the Hindu mob break open the shop’s shutter with a metal rod, loot the shop, and then burn it down with petrol. He wrote that later that night, he saw the same crowd throw petrol bombs into Muslim houses.
On the morning of 25 February, Mushahid continued, a Hindu mob entered the lane where his house was situated and began pelting stones and petrol bombs at the houses in the lane. He wrote that he saw one of the locals throw an explosive at one house, which caused a large explosion, and that one member of the mob even fired his gun at Mushahid. Then, Mushahid wrote, Bisht arrived at the lane. “I saw Mohan Singh Bisht take an explosive from the hands of his associate and throw it at Mumtaz bhai’s house, which caused a huge explosion in the house,” Mushahid wrote. The mob then looted the Muslim houses, including Mumtaz’s, Mushahid added.
Mumtaz’s account to The Caravan corroborated all of Mushahid’s allegations. He, too, wrote a formal complaint naming Bisht, the Dayalpur SHO and the same Hindu locals in July 2020. No FIR was registered against either of their complaints. But both of them said they faced immense hostility, pressure and intimidation from the locals to withdraw their complaints. Mushahid believed that the poisoning in April this year was the latest of such efforts.
On 9 April, I spoke to Mushahid at the Jag Pravesh Chandra Hospital at Shastri Park in northeast Delhi, where he was admitted. He recounted the incident. “I had parked my rickshaw in Khajuri,” Mushahid began. “Some people came—three of them—and asked me if I would go to Gokulpuri. I told them I would not, but they insisted, and offered to pay whatever fare it would cost.” The men kept insisting that they needed to carry some goods from a factory in Gokulpuri, and ultimately Mushahid agreed.
“They took me into one lane,” Mushahid said. “It was a residential area and one woman even stopped to look at us as if she thought something was wrong, but then she walked away.” He continued, “I was very thirsty. I thought it was their factory over there, so I told one of them, ‘I’m feeling thirsty, could I get some water?’ He went a little far away and returned with a cold drink.” Mushahid said the man offered him the cold drink in a plastic glass and that he did not see the drink being poured into the glass. “They brought it to me from somewhere behind,” he said, adding that the men also drank from the bottle. Mushahid said the men convinced him to step out of his rickshaw go with them till the factory to help them with the goods. He parked it at one corner in the lane and walked with them for around 20–25 feet. “The street was wide open but they insisted that I leave the rickshaw there only,” he told me. “As soon as I told them that there is enough space on the road to bring my rickshaw till the factory, one of them held me by my collar and threatened me to withdraw my complaint in the riots cases,” Mushahid said.
“I told them, ‘I have not filed any complaint against you,’ and they responded, ‘Whomever you’ve filed a complaint against, they have sent me,’” Mushahid continued. “‘So you better withdraw your complaint.’ Then he slapped me hard, because of which I fell unconscious immediately. I regained consciousness only in this hospital the next day.”
Mushahid’s father, Mohammad Salamat, was also present at the hospital. Salamat said he became worried when Mushahid did not return home that evening because the family had received threats about the police complaint earlier as well. Salamat said that Mushahid would normally reach home by 5 pm. After waiting till around 7 pm, Salamat said he went to the police station. “I had reached the Gokulpuri police station to lodge a missing-person report about my son between 7 pm and 8 pm, and was told that they would inform me by the next morning, but then I discovered my son lying in the compound outside the police station,” Salamat said. “I found him lying unconscious at the premises of the Gokulpuri police station.”
The police did not explain to Salamat how Mushahid reached there. “No policeman attended to my unconscious son, and the police refused to share any details,” Salamat said. “The policemen just told me to take Mushahid to a hospital first to save his life. But they themselves didn’t help me.” Salamat said that he first brought his unconscious son home, “and then took him to the hospital on a bike with the help of another person after he didn’t regain consciousness.”
“I took him to the emergency ward where the doctors took my consent for any consequences before inserting a pipe inside his body,” Salamat said. “They then admitted him and he was able to speak after two days. I was really nervous, the e-rickshaw was lost, and my son was unconscious.” When asked why he did not ask the police for help at the station, he answered, “I did not have the courage.”
On 8 April, when Mushahid regained consciousness, he said he called 100—the police helpline—and that two police officials from Gokulpuri station came to the hospital. “They recorded my statement,” he told me. “Afterwards, I asked them if I could read it. They had written a complaint that only accused the perpetrators of wanting to steal my rickshaw, and that they poisoned me to steal it. So I told the police, ‘Sir, you have not written my entire complaint. They threatened me also, and told me to withdraw my complaint.’” Mushahid said he wanted to specify in the complaint that the men had threatened him at the behest of Bisht, because of his earlier complaint against the MLA.
Mushahid said the police told him that additional details that he wanted recorded could be added later, but he refused to sign the complaint. “If you will record it as I wish, that is fine, otherwise I will not sign it,” Mushahid said he told the police. “Then they asked me, ‘Whose name do you want to take?’ I said, ‘I have named Mohan Singh Bisht and his associates in my previous complaint, I want to mention them, and you can write that I can identify them if they are produced before me.’” On hearing this, Mushahid said, the police got up and left. “They did not give me any response, they did not write anything, they just got up and left.”
Mushahid was discharged from the hospital on 13 April. The next morning, he rushed to the spot where he had lost consciousness after the poisoning. “It was Ganga Vihar, and there were CCTV cameras at the spot where they had asked me to park my e-rickshaw,” he told me later over the phone, on 15 April. Mushahid emailed a complaint to SN Shrivastava, the commissioner of Delhi Police, on 16 April. Twelve days later, he received a response acknowledging his email and referring his case to the office of Alok Kumar, the joint commissioner of police of Delhi’s eastern range.
Adreesh Yadav, the police official from Gokulpuri police station who had visited Mushahid at the hospital, had told me on 9 April, “I will be calling Mushahid to lodge his detailed complaint once he is discharged from the hospital.” On 4 May, three weeks after Mushahid had been discharged, I called Yadav and asked him why he had walked out of the hospital when Mushahid mentioned Bisht’s name. But Yadav repeatedly ignored the question and insisted that he had asked Mushahid to come to the station and identify the spot of the crime, so that he could determine which police station would have jurisdiction.
Mushahid told me he received a callfrom Yadav after his discharge from the hospital, on 28 April, the same day that he received an acknowledgment of his emailed complaint. During the call Yadav asked him to lodge an e-FIR about the theft of his rickshaw. Mushahid informed Yadav that he had already emailed a fresh complaint about the incident, and insisted that he wanted to lodge a complaint not only about his rickshaw, but also about the threat to withdraw his complaint. On hearing this, Yadav became more aggressive on the call and said that he could not investigate the incident until Mushahid confirmed the scene of the crime. Mushahid offered to take him to the spot.
According to Mushahid, Yadav stopped answering his calls after that, while Yadav maintains that Mushahid has refused to show him the scene of the incident. “Whenever I call him before leaving for the police station at the scheduled time, he would not take my call,” Mushahid said. “I think, he calls me only when he feels some pressure.” He said that no police official had contacted him since the emailed acknowledgment of his complaint on 28 April, and Yadav’s call that day.
The office of the the joint commissioner of police, to whom Mushahid’s emailed complaint had been referred, informed me that Mushahid’s complaint had been forwarded to the office of Sanjay Kumar Sain, the deputy commissioner of police of North East Delhi. Sain did not respond to emailed queries. I asked Yadav whether he had received any fresh instructions from the DCP or JCP’s office, but he refused to discuss the case any further.
When asked for a response to the allegations against him, Bisht, the MLA, told me he did not know anything about the case. “This is a false complaint and some people are trying to malign me,” he said. “They are harassing the police also.” Bisht further said that he had not been summoned by the Delhi Police for any investigation concerning the Delhi violence. As I previously reported for The Caravan, the Delhi Police has ignored numerous complaints against Bisht and other BJP leaders for leading mobs in the Delhi violence.
“The police also tried to record a complaint of robbery—so that even if someone dies, the charge would be robbery, nothing more—of stealing the rickshaw,” Mushahid said. “They took my rickshaw and left me on the street. Or wherever it is that they left me.”