In the early hours of 30 August, personnel of the Uttar Pradesh Police brutally assaulted Salim Qureshi, a 55-year-old fruit seller, at his house in Ghazipur district’s Dildarnagar village, according to his family. Qureshi’s wife, Sarvari Begum, said the policemen arrived at the house at around 2 am and hit her husband so much that a part of his heel broke away from the right foot. After this, she said, the police stole Rs 20,000 from him and ran away. While Begum told me that the policemen refused to give any reason behind the assault, the Uttar Pradesh police claimed that they visited the house based on an input regarding illegal cow slaughter.
Begum told me that she could not identify the policemen at the time of the attack. But on 4 September, in an application to the superintendent of Ghazpiur district, seeking the registration of a first-information report in the incident, she named four police officials of the Dildarnagar police station as the assailants—the sub inspector Sandeep Kumar, and the constables Vineet Kumar, Raju Kumar, Kundan Kumar. The same four officials were sent to the police lines. She mentioned that the fifth assailant had not been identified. In her application, she requested the superintendent to intervene in the matter as the police officials in Dildarnagar had refused to register an FIR in the case. The letter was also marked to the deputy inspector general and inspector general of police in Varanasi district, and the National Human Rights Commission office in Lucknow.
Qureshi’s family members are among several Muslim villagers who told The Caravan this year that the Uttar Pradesh Police has assaulted or harassed them. In a conspicuously similar case, members of seven Muslim households in Bijnor district’s Faridpur Kazi village told me that on the night of 8 May, policemen attacked their homes, verbally abused them and beat up the men at home. They later found that the police had conducted the raids on the suspicion of cow slaughter. Dr Khalid Anis Ansari, a sociologist at the Glocal University in Saharanpur district, told me, “In my area too, such incidents are happening there every day.” Ansari, who has researched on Pasmanda Muslims, said that the police is targeting poor Muslims under the guise of curbing cow slaughter in the state.
Begum, a 50-year-old, told me that her husband has been selling fruits from a cart for a decade now. The couple has six children, two of whom are married and do not live in the same village. She said another son assisted Qureshi and lived elsewhere in the village. On the night of 30 August, Begum told me, she, her husband, three of their children and another relative—a young boy—were sleeping at home.
When the police knocked on the door to the house, Begum said she was the first one to respond and ask who was there. “A man said, ‘I am Aslam.’ I asked, ‘Aslam who?’ The voice seemed unfamiliar, not of anyone in our neighbourhood,” she told me. Begum kept asking the man to identify himself correctly, but received the same response. She said she went to the roof to see who it was, but someone flashed a torch on her face so she was unable to see. “I again asked, ‘Who are you?’ They started giving maa-behen ki gaali”—profanities, abusing mothers and sisters.