Members of seven Muslim households in Faridpur Kazi in Uttar Pradesh told us that between 7.30 pm and 8.30 pm on 8 May, police personnel attacked their homes, verbally abused them and detained three men. The police personnel arrived around the time of iftar, the evening meal that breaks the roza, the dawn-to-dusk fast observed by Muslims on each day of Ramadan. They hurled abuses at the residents and rummaged through their homes, with a focus on kitchen items in most houses—they threw around utensils and leftover food. Most members of the households told us the police gave them no reason for the search. The policemen beat up a few of male members in the households and took three men to Kotwali Thana, a police station in Bijnor city, a few kilometres away. The next morning, the village’s sarpanch Iqbal went to the police station, after which the men were released without any chargesheet or first-information report, one of the detained men said. Iqbal told us that the police had said that they “came to the village on the basis of suspicion. They had been informed that a cow has been slaughtered.”
Two news reports suggest that the raids were a part of a larger crackdown by the Uttar Pradesh Police against cow slaughter in the state. On 12 May, the Times of India reported, “Western UP has witnessed a sudden surge in encounters and arrests in the last leg of 15-day crackdown launched against ‘smugglers and slaughterers’ of cow in the state.” It mentioned police firing and raids that had occurred in different areas of the state, including in Bijnor, as a part of this effort. The news agency United News of India published a report two days later, which said that the “Uttar Pradesh government has issued an advisory to demarcate suspected areas were illegal slaughtering is taking place and declare them as ‘hotspots’ as done for coronavirus cases.” The crackdown reportedly happened at a time when the country was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most people we spoke to in Faridpur Kazi worked on farms. They said they were resting at home when the police came. Among them was Bhura Khan, a 45-year-old man who owns a sugarcane farm of 25 bighas. That day, he had filled a trolley with sugarcane from his farm, which he had to deliver to the Bijnor Sugar Mill at 11 pm. He went home with the trolley in the evening, where he lived with his wife and four children. “I had reached home and had iftar just a while before the police came. I was resting on my charpoy when suddenly, several policemen arrived at my door,” Khan said. He said the police personnel asked, “Who is Bhura?” Khan said he started to run in fear. “Then, someone from behind struck a baton on my waist and I fell,” he said.
“This fractured a bone in my left leg, near the knee, and my foot was swollen.” Khan is the sole earner in his family. “I have a lot of sugarcane which has to be taken to the mill. I was supposed to have sown sugarcane in my field but haven’t been able to yet,” he said. “Now, my leg has been broken. How will I do all this work?”
Khan told us that the police verbally abused him and frightened his wife and children that night. At one point, he said, his 15-year-old son asked a policeman, “Uncle, what has happened?” and they responded by hitting him with a lathi as well. “They wrecked our entire home. They threw leftover food on the ground. We did not even know why the police had come.”
Like Khan, Nurhassan, a labourer, also said that the police did not tell him why his house was being attacked. When the police arrived that night, he was at home with his two children. “They began conducting a search of the house. When I asked what happened and they started abusing me. I could not understand anything.” Nurhassan said the police personnel hit him and his 12-year-old son with a stick. “I could not understand why the police had come to our house.”
Only one of the residents we spoke to had received an explanation of sorts from the police. Imrana, a woman in her fifties, told us that the police arrived at her house at around 8 pm. “I had just come back home after feeding my buffalo. I got scared when I saw so many policemen in my house,” she said. “My daughters-in-law had cut pieces of watermelon, but the police threw them away. We had prepared a sabzi. They threw that too.” The policemen verbally abused her and her three daughters-in-law. She asked them why they were raiding the house, but received no response. When her younger son asked what the matter was, a policeman replied, “You eat a lot of beef.”