In the face of a police cover-up, the Hapur lynching survivor speaks up

Nearly a month after the incident, the Hapur police have not taken a statement from Samiuddin—the survivor and only witness to Qasim’s murder. Shahid Tantray for The Caravan
15 July, 2018

After about a month of treatment, the 64-year-old Mohammed Samiuddin, a resident of Madapur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Hapur district, was discharged from a private hospital in Delhi on the morning of 14 July. Samiuddin had suffered grave injuries after a mob beat him up on 18 June, in the village Bajhera Khurd, located in the same district. Samiuddin had intervened as the mob attacked 50-year-old Qasim, on suspicion of cow slaughter. Qasim, a resident of Hapur’s Pilkhuwa town who worked as cattle trader and butcher, was murdered. The Hapur Police picked Samiuddin up from the site of the lynching in a half-conscious state. Videos of the brutal attacks were subsequently shared widely on social media.

Even 26 days after the incident, the Hapur police have not taken a statement from Samiuddin— the survivor and only witness to Qasim’s murder. The police filed a first information report against 25 unknown people from Bajhera Khurd, under sections 147, 148, 307, and 302—punishment for rioting, rioting with deadly weapon, attempt to murder and murder, respectively. They also arrested four men—Rakesh Sisodia, Yudhishtir Singh, Sonu and Kaptan, all Rajputs residing in Bajhera.

In a piece for The Caravan, its staff writer Sagar reported that the police was attempting to cover up the facts of the case. According to the FIR, the attack was the result of road rage. It recorded that Samauddin was hit by a motorcycle, which led to protests that turned into a fight involving 25 or 30 people. Various contradictions were evident in proceedings surrounding the the case—for instance, the diary entry at the police station, the first record by police procedure, contained no mention of an accident. Further, each person associated with the incident—including family members of the Bajhera residents who formed the attacking mob—described it as resulting from a suspicion of cow slaughter. Though the FIR contains the signature of Samiuddin's brother Yaseen, he later told The Caravan that he had not registered the complaint that led to the FIR. According to Yaseen, his friend Dinesh Tomar, a Rajpur resident of a nearby village, had lodged the complaint. Tomar told us that the circle office Pawan Kumar pressured him to present a false account in the FIR. These admissions appear not to have formed part of the police’s investigation. Many of the attackers, who were easily identifiable in the videos and whom Samiuddin was able to name, were not arrested. Singh was granted bail on 4 July, and Sisodia’s bail plea is scheduled for its next hearing on 19 July.

I met Samiuddin not long after he was discharged, along with Yaseen and Tomar. All of his limbs are bound in either a plaster or a cast, and there are wounds and fractures along his entire body. He is also recovering from a serious head injury. Seated on a wooden chair with his legs propped up on another, Samiuddin spoke patiently, taking short breaks to rest. “I want the accused to get maximum punishment, aur Qasim aur mujhe insaaf mile”—and Qasim and I get justice, he said.

Troubled by the police’s attempts to cover up the facts of the case, Samiuddin, his brother Yaseen and his friend Dinesh Tomar decided to send their statements to the police as soon as he was discharged from the hospital. They have couriered their statements to Ram Kumar, the inspector general of Meerut; Prashant Kumar, the additional director general of the police in Meerut; and Sankalp Sharma, the superintendent of police in Hapur. “I have learnt that the accused has been released on bail. By not placing the facts before the court, the police has helped the accused, and had not properly contended their bail appeal. Because they are hand-in-glove with the accused from Bajhera village,” Samiuddin said. “I have no faith in the investigation that is being carried out by the Pilkhuwa Police.”

Samiuddin recounted the attack. On the day, he had gone with his neighbour Hasan to collect chara—fodder—from his farm bordering Madapur village. They reached around 11.30 am, and planned to finish the collection soon, before leaving with his family for Pabi village, to attend a relative’s funeral. They both sat down by the farm, and began smoking beedis.

Madapur and Bajhera Khurd are adjacent villages, separated by farmland. As he sat smoking, Samiuddin saw Qasim walking alone, with a stick in hand. Suddenly, a group of 20–25 people from Bajhera village running towards the farm and began beating Qasim As Qasim screamed for help, Samiuddin stood up and asked the mob, “What is the problem? Why are you beating him up?” The mob turned to Samiuddin and attacked him as well. He tried to protest, but they didn’t listen to a word he said.

“They pulled at my beard and started beating me up … laat-ghuse”—kicking and punching, he said. Samiuddin wrote in his statement that the mob asked him, “Did you kill a cow?” “Nothing like that has happened here: there is no cow, no chhuri, no kulhadi.” (No knife, no axe.) He told me he tried to explain to the mob that it would not have been possible to slaughter any animals at the farm—it lies on the border of Bajhera, he reasoned, it was early in the day and there were people around. But the mob did not listen. Seeing the attackers beating Samiuddin, Hasan ran away in fear. The mob dragged Samiuddin towards the temple in Bhajeda. “I was growing weak,” he said. The beating continued at the temple; by then the mob had grown to 45–50 people.

Samuiddin soon lost track of time. He said he did not realise when the police arrived. “I was weak and badly wounded,” he told me. “The police lifted me up like an animal and put me inside their van … They didn’t treat me like an injured person, and did nothing to ease my pain.”At the hospital, “I was in and out of consciousness,” he said. “There are fractures on my fingers, and it was paining. In that condition, someone had pressed it on papers to mark my signature. I could feel it, but I don’t know who did it.”

“I know and can identify the people who beat Qasim to death,” Samiuddin said. In his statement to the police, Samiuddin has named various residents of Bajhera—Mange, Karan Lal, Rinku Rana, Hari Om, and Lalit. “There are many more people whose faces I can identify,” Samauddinadded. “In sab ne mil kar mujhe itna mara ki mere talvon se lekar mere sir tak koi jagah bachi nahi haiMere sir pe bahut chot aayi … mere haath, tang aur pasaliyan sab thod diye in logon neKhuda ka rehem ki main aaj zinda hun.” (These people beat me from head to toe. I suffered a head injury; my arms, my legs, my ribs, all are broken. It’s by the grace of god that I am alive today.)

According to Yaseen, the police pressured the family members to not disclose the truth regarding the attack on Qasim and Samiuddin, nor the fact that the lynch mob comprised of villagers from Bajhera. This was similar to what Tomar earlier told The Caravan—that the circle officer pressured him to describe the incident as a motorcycle accident. When Tomar protested, the officer “asked me not to bother about what was being written because it was he who was going to investigate it anyway.”

Yaseen lives in Masuri village in Ghaziabad district, and rushed to Madapur when he was informed on the incident. Along with his nephew Anas—Samiuddin’s son—he visited the Pilkhuwa police station. The police officials proved unhelpful. They sent them from one hospital to another, in search of Samiuddin. Yaseen and Anas finally returned to the station. “We were very scared,” Yaseen said. Tomar also arrived at the station. He informed the pradhan of Madapur, who reached the police station with a few other residents of the village. Yaseen and Anas, along with the Madapur residents, met several senior district police officials including the circle officer Pawan Kumar Singh and the sub-divisional magistrate Hanuman Prasad Maurya. The officials assured them the police would catch the assailants. All officials except Pawan Kumar then left the station.

Yaseen requested Pawan Kumar to give him his brother’s whereabouts. “Why is the police not telling us the truth about Samiuddin,” Yaseen asked. Hearing this, the circle officer “threatened me,” Yaseen said, “saying that if I wanted to see my brother, I should do as he says.” Pawan Kumar Singh, he added, “told me that you should write the report as I say and sign it, and that if I did not, Samuiddin along with me and my family members will be arrested for cow slaughter.”

“Remember which government is in power now. It is good for everyone to keep quiet,” Singh threatened Yaseen and Tomar. Worried for Samiuddin’s life, the latter filed a complaint as directed. Only after Yaseen signed the falsified report did the police inform him where his brother had been admitted. Despite this, when they reached the hospital, Yaseen and Anas learnt that Samiuddin had been shifted to another hospital—Devnandini Hospital, where the family finally found him.

Samiuddin told me that he was discharged from Devnandini on 6 July. He added that several of his wounds were infected, and one of the fractures had been wrongly set. Samiuddin and his family decided to travel outside of Hapur, to Delhi, for treatment. “That’s why we have now got the courage to tell the truth, so that you can set up an impartial inquiry into the lynch mob from Bajhera,” Yaseen wrote in his statement to the police. “We request you to also set up an inquiry into the police officers who, to protect the attackers, ensured that a false FIR and statement was prepared—in particular, the circle officer at Pilkhuwa station, Pawan Kumar Singh.” Samiuddin said, “All the officers at the Pilkhuwa station who had threatened my relatives to file a fake FIR should be brought under judicial investigation.”

The police investigation has not progressed beyond the arrests of the four men. On 9 July, Yudhishtir Singh, one of the accused, was granted bail against a bond of Rs 1 lakh by the Hapur sessions court. The bail order states the petitioner's statement and the police case diary contradict each other, and do not present a strong case against Yudhishtir.

“It is bizarre that the police has not taken the statement of Samuidden or his relatives yet,” Vrinda Grover, who is Samiuddin’s lawyer in the case, said. “An injured eye-witness holds very high value in an investigation. After receiving the statements from SamuiddeenYaseen, and Tomar, the police is legally bound to investigate the facts presented before them.” Samiuddin added that he was worried for the safety of his family. “The people who were a part of the mob and the police could harm me and my family,” he said. Referring to the accused, Tomar said, “They had themselves made the video. It is dadagiri … They want to intimidate people.” He added: “No one else from the Rajput community has come forward to support the victim. I am also being threatened for supporting them. They’re all bhagwadhari”—adorned in saffron. “That’s why the police and government are supporting them.”

I reached out to the inspector general of Meerut, Ram Kumar; the superintendent of police, Sankalp Kumar; and the circle office Pawan Kumar Singh. They did not respond.