When Mohammed Saleem (36), wanted in several criminal cases, was shot dead inside the Saharanpur Mandi on March 25, the Uttar Pradesh police said they were forced to fire in self-defence after he shot at an officer when stopped at a check post. The police alleged Saleem alias Ehsan, who had just robbed a farmer of cash and shot at him, was attempting to avoid arrest.
But on the ground, The Indian Express found examples that show glaring inconsistencies — home guards posted at the Mandi who did not hear shots fired or see police, varying police versions on where and when Saleem first opened fire, missing medical records of the injured policeman and a reward against Saleem declared before he was formally booked.
* The press note issued by the office of the Saharanpur SSP, Babloo Kumar, said two men were spotted at a check-post and they went inside the Mandi. “Today, March 25, 2017, during checking with SHO Mandi police station and SWAT at Samrat Vikram Colony, a motorcycle with two men was spotted who saw the police and rode into the Mandi. The police followed them in and the two men fell when the motorcycle slipped,” said the press note.
The press note does not mention Saleem firing at the police outside the Mandi, which Mandi police station SHO Muninder Singh, who was at the encounter spot on Sunday, confirmed. He said, “We were already alerted about Saleem looting Rs 1 lakh from the farmer. Around 1.30 am two people on a motorcycle were spotted and when they were asked to stop, they fired on us and fled inside the Mandi and we (Sarsawa police, SWAT and Mandi police) chased them. A few shots were fired inside the Mandi.”
* The press note said that after they fell, the two men ran in different directions and opened fire at the police with “intent” to kill. “Police fired on the accused in self-defence after which one of them (later identified as Saleem) sustained bullet injuries.” Police also said Saleem’s associate fled using “darkness” to his advantage.
But two home guards — Janeshwar and Suresh Yadav — deployed inside the Mandi, as part of their night duty between midnight and 8 am, said they neither heard gunshots nor did they see any police movement. Both home guards said they did not know about the incident till they read about it in the newspaper the next day.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Janeshwar said, “Yadav and I were inside the Mandi the whole night and we did not hear a single shot fired inside. Nothing of this sort happened inside, we did not even see the police,” said Janeshwar.
Assistant company commander Bhanwar Singh — home guards in charge — also said he did not know of any encounter inside the Mandi. “When a tyre bursts in the daytime, we can hear it inside the Mandi. It is not possible that shots were fired inside and no one heard it. I was not there but guards who were present did not hear anything,” he said.
Secretary of the Saharanpur Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Anil Kumar also said he had no information about the alleged firing inside the Mandi. “No encounter happened inside the Mandi. I would have received some information. If an encounter happened, it must have been outside,” he said.
The Saharanpur police disagreed. SSP Babloo Kumar said nobody is present at night in the Mandi. “No one stays there after midnight. How will people come to know of such encounter?” he said. SWAT team leader Sanjeev Pandey was at the spot that night and said: “I was there when the incident had happened. No one was inside the Mandi.”
* The press note also stated that SI Sachin Sharma was injured during the shootout. But at the Saharanpur Government Hospital, there is no record of Sharma’s medico-legal case (MLC) — the page with his records has been torn from the record book. “SI Sachin Sharma was brought to the hospital. His records are missing. The police took the original MLC report by mistake,” said Chief Pharmacist and record keeper of the Saharanpur District Hospital P S Bhutola. He also said that the nature of Sharma’s injuries would only be determined once the report was back.
From the government hospital, Sharma was transferred to Medigram, a private hospital, some seven km away. Director of Medigram Dr Ajay Singh said, “Sachin’s wound on his leg was already sutured when he was brought to this hospital. There was inflammation. There was no lethal injury to vital organs… After looking at the wounds it cannot be said if it was a bullet injury.”
* According to the press note, Saleem and his associate had shot a farmer Nawab Singh at “around 11 pm” near Hussainpur village on March 24 but he was admitted to the Saharanpur Government Hospital more than two-and-a-half hours later. The hospital is around 25 km away.
According to the press note, Singh was going to his in-law’s house in Baingini village. At Manohera village, Nawab Singh said, “This happened at around 10 pm… maarne ki niyat thi nahi unki (they did not want to kill me). Those two men stopped me and shot me… I gave them my phone, bag and motorcycle.”
According to Singh, 20 minutes later, he flagged down a car, narrated his ordeal and was dropped to the nearest police outpost. He was admitted to the Saharanpur Government Hospital at 1.45 am, as per records. Record keeper Bhutola said, “As per the MLC, Nawab Singh arrived at 1.45 am with a gunshot injury after which he was referred to the ICU.”
“The incident took place at around 11 pm and a PCR call was made at 11.55 pm. No police vehicle was available at the outpost and it took time to arrange a vehicle. There was also a lot of traffic,” said Sarsawa SHO Yashpal Dhama.
* The UP police press note said Saleem carried a reward of Rs 25,000 for his arrest. The reward was declared on March 20 after a case was registered at Deoband Police Station, which alleged that Saleem and his associates were booked for trespassing, burglary and assault at Saapla Road.
According to police, the complainant of that incident, Husan Jahan, had said that a man robbed her jewellery and injured her son on March 16 at her residence. Jahan said, “The lock was broken, the assailants had probably sprayed some chemicals inside the room. However, after hearing some sound my son woke up and was punched twice on his jaw and his teeth are broken… But we did not see anyone.”
Asked how Saleem was linked to the Saapla Road robbery, investigation officer Rajeev Sharma of Deoband Police said, “We got to know of Saleem’s involvement in this case through our informers. The matter is still under investigation.”
SSP Saharanpur Babloo Kumar said Saleem was part of a gang involved in robberies and theft in different areas of Saharanpur. “On March 24, we arrested four persons of a gang of which Saleem was also a member. During questioning they told us that they had also committed theft with Saleem in Deoband at Saapla Road,” he said.
According to police, Saleem’s involvement was established on March 24, but the reward of Rs 25,000 was declared four days before.
Saleem’s wife Shamim (35) said her husband has not been home for the last 10 days. She said Saleem had promised her eight years ago when their younger daughter was born, that he would never indulge in any more crimes. She has two daughters aged 7 and 11.
“I do not believe that he looted and shot the farmer… This is all fake,” she says.
On Sunday, she said, police called Saleem’s sister Nasreen that he was in “serious condition”. “My mother-in-law and I reached the hospital where police said my husband was dead. I pleaded with them to let me take his body to Roorkee to my sister-in-law’s house. But police refused, took my thumb impression on some papers, showed us the body and took it straight to a burial ground,” she said.
The police press note also lists 13 cases against Saleem in various police stations in Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur and Dehradun.
* Four cases in 2018, in Saharanpur: Robbery at Saapla Road and another at Sarsawa after looting the farmer, and two cases registered after the encounter – under the Arms Act and attempt to murder — though both are part of the same incident.
* Three cases in 2017, at Budhana Police Station in Muzaffarnagar: One each for attempt to murder, cheating and under the Arms Act.
* One case in 2014 at Mandi Police Station, Saharanpur: Dacoity
* Two cases in 2008 at Civil Lines police station, Muzaffarnagar: One for rioting and attempt to murder and another for robbery.
* Two cases in 2006 at Basant Vihar Police Station, Dehradun: Robbery and under Gangster Act.
* One case in 2003 at Nai Mandi Police Station, Muzaffarnagar: Dacoity