Three eyewitnesses said that on 24 February last year, during the communal violence in northeast Delhi, they saw Harveer Singh Bhati, a sub-inspector from the Okhla police station, shoot and kill a local resident, Mohammad Furkan. His post-mortem report confirmed two bullets, in his left thigh and his lower abdomen. Three women told us that they were less than twenty feet away from Furkan when he was shot, and that Bhati killed the 30-year-old man from close range, and without provocation at the anti-CAA protest site at Kardampuri. All three women said that security forces and rioters had set fire to the Kardampuri protest site that afternoon. Furkan had rushed to it to protect the Quran and other Islamic scripture from the flames. “I saw Bhati firing two bullets at Furkan,” Ruksana Khatoon, a resident of Kardampuri and one of the eyewitnesses, said. The other eyewitnesses, Malka and Shahnaz, corroborated that the policeman fired two shots. “I saw it with my own eyes, I can never forget it,” Malka said.
In a video from that day, filmed near the Kardampuri bridge and soon after he was shot, a number of men can be seen frantically rushing Furkan to a hospital. The men in the video, too, accuse the police of shooting him. They can be heard shouting, “Look, the policeman shot him” and “The government has become so cowardly that it has started shooting us now.” We were unable to meet Bhati for an interview despite numerous attempts. We emailed queries to the Delhi Police commissioner, the deputy commissioner of southeast Delhi, the public-relations officer, the station house officer of Okhla police station, the investigating officer in Furkan’s case, and Bhati. None responded by the time this article was published.
At 5.30 pm on 24 February, Furkan was declared brought dead at the Guru Tegh Bahadur hospital, in Dilshad Garden. The police investigation into his death reflects the same shoddy investigation and persecution of Muslim individuals that has come to mark much of the Delhi Police’s investigation into the February violence. The accusations against Bhati, though far from novel insofar as police complicity is concerned, mark a rare instance of eyewitnesses coming on record, despite numerous cases of police intimidation, to accuse a named official of murder.
Kardampuri lies approximately in the middle of Gokulpuri and Maujpur, two other areas of northeast Delhi that witnessed violence in February. The roads connecting the two areas are divided by a canal, and Kardampuri stands adjacent to one of the roads. A foot overbridge connects the two roads. A majority of Muslims live in Kardampuri on one side of the bridge, and on the opposite side stands the Hindu-dominated Yamuna Vihar neighbourhood. A large tent had been put up near the bridge on the Kardampuri side as a protest site against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019—one of several that emerged in Delhi and across the country amid the then nationwide movement against the law.
The Kardampuri protest had been ongoing for at least 45 days before the Delhi violence, and the three eyewitnesses were regulars at the protest. As was Bhati, according to the women, who said that he was one of the beat officers stationed at the protest site, and they all recognised him by name and face. At the time, Bhati was posted with the Jyoti Nagar police station, and officials at the Okhla police station confirmed to us that he was transferred a few months after the Delhi violence. On the morning of 24 February, the women said, the anti-CAA protest at Kardampuri was proceeding as usual when a group of men with red strings tied on their wrists—a Hindu religious symbol—entered the tent. “I’m not sure what all they said, but everyone immediately stood up,” Khatoon told us. “We pacified everyone and asked the women and all the others to sit down.” At around 1 pm, she continued, Malka and her decided to go to the foot overbridge to survey the area. From there, they heard sounds of gunfire coming from the Maujpur area.