Post-mortem report of Rampur youth killed in anti-CAA protests casts doubt on police version

Sukruti Anah Staneley
21 February, 2020

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.”

The post-mortem report does not record any such blackening or charring of the skin near the entry wound. I showed the report to Vibhuti Narain Rai, a former director general of the Uttar Pradesh Police. “Nowhere in the report does it mention that there is blackening or charring, which means the bullet was fired from a distance.” He added, “A short range weapon such as a katta can mostly be ruled out.” I also showed the report to a doctor who specialises in forensics, but did not want to be named. He told me, “This is not a close-range shot. Not a contact-range shot. It is a distant shot. Every weapon has its own range, but there is nothing in the report that indicates it was a close-range shot.”

Anshu Mali, one of the doctors who conducted the post-mortem, told me, “There was no blackening or charring of the body, which means the bullet was fired from a far distance.” When I asked him how “far” this distance was, he said that could only be determined by an “expert.” Mali also said that although there was no videography while the post-mortem was being conducted, photographs were taken. Curiously, the report itself indicates that the investigating officer did not request videography or photography.

I reached out to Singh again to question him on his assertion that Faiz was shot by someone within the crowd since the post-mortem report made it amply clear that it was not a close-range shot. Singh said, “According to the PM report the bullets trajectory is from top to bottom. The police was not on the roofs, it was on the roads. So, the bullet would have to be fired by someone who was positioned above.” He agreed that the wound indicates that the shot was fired from a distance of more than five feet. However, Rai said, “How does one take the claims of the administration or police at face value? They may say that it was a particular type of bullet, but where is the evidence that it was the same type that was recovered from the body?” He added that doctors doing a post-mortem do not know the gauge or type of bullet, and it is sent to forensic laboratories for further examination. “But in Uttar Pradesh all the forensic laboratories are under the police department, so any conclusion by them has to be treated sceptically,” Rai said.

The doctor who specialises in forensics told me that this report will not help much in determining the bore “because it is a primitive type of report.” Referring to a forensic science laboratory report, he said, “It’s better if you get the FSL report, but that will take months. The ballistics examination report is mostly not released by the police, it is presented directly in court, they don’t even show it to the doctor.” He added, “Looking at the PM report it is clear that it is a metallic bullet. Mostly rioters or public who use kattas, these kinds of weapons use charras”—pellets. He added, “I can say with a 90 percent probability that it was not a country-made weapon.”

Based on his reading of the report Rai, too, said, “In my experience in Uttar Pradesh I have only rarely encountered a crowd firing at the police. There is a 15 percent chance that the bullet that killed Faiz may have been fired by someone in the crowd, but the greater probability is that it is the police that fired into the crowd.”