On 6 February, the family of Faiz Khan, a 26-year-old who was shot dead in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur city during protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, gained access to his post-mortem report. Faiz was among at least 22 other people killed during anti-CAA protests in the state between 20 to 26 December. Initially, the state police maintained that they did not use live rounds, and the protesters were killed by country-made guns fired by the crowds themselves. On 19 February, the chief minister Adityanath told the state assembly that the police did not kill a single person during the protests and “the bullets of rioters” caused all casualties. However, Faiz’s post-mortem report, a copy of which is with The Caravan, raises questions about the veracity of the police’s claims. An analysis of the report showed that there is a single bullet wound on the body and it is inconsistent with markings typically caused by kattas—a colloquial term for country-made guns. Additionally, the report is clear on the fact that whatever the weapon used, it was not a close-range shot, as claimed by the police, but was fired from a distance. Kattas are short-range weapons.
The post mortem was conducted at the Post Mortem House in the Deen Dayal Upadhyay District Hospital, in the nearby city of Moradabad. The hospital is the official authority for government post-mortems. The autopsy was conducted on 21 December—the day Faiz was killed—between 4.50 pm and 5.30 pm. Rampur falls under the Moradabad district. When I spoke to Aunjaneya Kumar Singh, the district magistrate, on 29 December, he told me, “If the dead body was in Rampur it would have created a furore here.” The report does not mention the type of bullet that killed Faiz—just that there is a firearm entry-wound in the front of the neck measuring one centimetre by half a centimetre and that one metallic bullet was recovered from the back of the left side of the chest wall. This bullet was sealed and sent to Amit Pathak, the senior superintendent of police, Moradabad. Pathak, however, told me, “We have no details with us...if it doesn’t concern us we don’t open any document.” He said that the “Moradabad police forwarded all details to Rampur.”
Faiz’s family told me that the police shot him. Shiraz Jamal Khan, Faiz’s brother-in-law told me, “I got a call saying that Faiz had been shot. When I rushed there people told me that the police had fired, but how does one prove it?” He added that Faiz’s father, Asif Khan did not want to register a complaint about his son’s death since he had no hope of justice from either the police or the administration.
The administration has claimed that the police did not fire the bullet that killed Faiz. This claim is based on two factors—the kind of bullet used and the range of the shot. Singh told me that the police fired rubber bullets into the crowd. “We gave orders to fire rubber bullets because they are not lethal. Faiz was shot with a metal bullet, not a rubber bullet.” He implied that the bullet was fired by someone in close proximity to Faiz because he was part of the crowd. “If police fired the bullet it would hit people in the front and not travel 100 meters and hit someone standing in the back.” It should be noted here that kattas are ineffective at long range. When I first spoke to Singh he told me that “the bullet that was found was batees bore”—0.32 calibre ammunition. “That is not a police bullet. This bore is found in tamanchas”—another term for country-made guns.
But when I reached out to Singh again on 19 February, he changed his stance and said, “I don’t understand bore-wore. It was a bullet that comes out of tamanchas.” When I said that tamanchas mostly use pellets and not bullets, he said, “By tamancha I mean a private pistol.” Singh insisted that it had to be a katta that killed Faiz. He said, “Police bullets, when they are fired, are so powerful that they exit the body after causing much destruction. But the bullet was found in the body, this is possible only from a katta.” He also told me that if a bullet is shot from five feet or less then there is a “blackening in the skin at the point of entry.”