Aftab Alam, a 23-year-old mason, was a resident of Munshi Purwa, a Muslim-majority locality of Kanpur, in Uttar Pradesh. On 20 December, sometime between 2 pm and 4 pm, the Kanpur Police shot Alam as he crossed a demonstration against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. Alam had just left the Badi Masjid, which is located inside the Eidgah Maidan—a historic park in the city which houses a mosque, a cemetery and expansive grounds. He had come to offer the Friday prayers and then intended to head to Babu Purwa, a locality between the maidan and his house. He was a college graduate, but after the death of his father five years ago, Alam had started working alongside his education to support a household of six. That day, after the namaz, he was on his way to collect the previous day’s wages from a construction site in Babu Purwa. The police bullet hit him in the chest, in the lane outside the maidan, and according to his family, he died later that evening.
Raees Khan, a 30-year-old papad seller, was a resident of Begum Purwa, another Muslim-majority locality, adjacent to Babu Purwa and bordering the maidan. That day, he, too, was at the Eidgah Maidan—he had taken up a job as a waiter for a wedding to be held in the maidan that evening. He was inside a tent set up for the wedding when he first heard a ruckus outside the maidan. That Friday, all the shops in the Muslim neighbourhoods in the area had been closed in protest against the CAA. Since the morning, police personnel had been deployed around the Eidgah as well as the exit of every locality in the neighbourhood. After the afternoon namaz, an informal gathering of sorts had coalesced in and around the maidan, in protest against the CAA. While there is no consensus on what transpired next, every local I spoke to said that the police opened fire on the gathering without any provocation. In the ensuing chaos, Khan ran for home, but was hit by a bullet in his stomach a short distance from the maidan. According to his family, Khan, the sole earner of a family of six, died the next evening.
Muhammad Saif, a 25-year-old labourer, was a resident of Babu Purwa. He worked in a tannery in Begum Purwa with his elder brother, Muhammad Jaki. Despite the visible police presence, it was a normal Friday for him. For the residents of these areas, heavy police deployment was not new. They were used to seeing the police watch over them at every festival. Saif had gone home from work to pick up lunch for Jaki, and stopped at the mosque on his way back, for the afternoon prayer. He left the mosque to head to the tannery and had barely crossed the road when the bullet hit him, Jaki told me. He died later that evening, according to Jaki. All the three men who were hit by bullets had been taken to the government-run Lala Lajpat Rai Hospital, popularly known as Hallet Hospital, by their respective friends or locals who happened to be around when the men were shot. Despite being almost seven kilometres away, the state-sponsored hospital was the only affordable facility in the vicinity.