FOR two days, Ziauddin Raza’s family says, they kept visiting Katoratal police outpost in Kashipur in Udham Singh Nagar district in Uttarakhand with food and tea for him, begging the police to let him go. On the third, an FIR was registered naming him in a case of elopement. Hours later, the 16-year-old was found dead.
The family got a call from L D Bhatt Government Hospital on February 28 asking them to collect his body. The shoes and jacket he was wearing were found absent, and later recovered from the police outpost after a probe started. Zaiuddin’s phone remains missing.
Four policemen have since been suspended, while the family of the girl whom Ziauddin allegedly helped flee is absconding. Subdivisional Magistrate Dayanand Saswati, who is leading the magisterial probe, has ruled out any arrests as of now, telling The Indian Express the initial postmortem indicated “he (Ziauddin) hanged himself”.
Watch What Else is Making News
An FIR has been registered against Constable Balwant Singh, Sub-Inspector Praveen Singh and other unidentified policemen, under Sections 302 (murder), 342 (wrongful confinement), and 201 (causing disappearance of proof). The two have been suspended along with Inspector Om Prakash Mehra (Kashipur Police Station) and constable on duty Virender Dutt.
Inspector Vipin Chandra Pant, who is leading the probe, said, “We are still at the stage of evidence collection. We are trying to find out whether the boy was in fact kept in custody for three days. An audio clip threatening the boy to come to the police station has also emerged.”
The girl, 15, at the centre of the incident, had gone missing from her home in Kajibagh on February 25. Constable Shankar Tamta, the new in-charge of the Katoratal police outpost, says her father made an ‘oral’ complaint and blamed Ziauddin.
Ziauddin’s father Mohammad Yameen says that at 9 am on February 26, a policeman called up his son and summoned him to the Katoratal chowki in connection with the girl’s disappearance. Tamta says police had found calls by the girl to his phone. “We got scared and took the boy to the outpost, hoping that his name would be cleared. But they detained him,” says Yameen, a 58-year-old daily wager who earns around Rs 5,000 a month.
Ziauddin was the fifth of his six children. The family stays in a two-room accommodation in nearby Bailjudi, a pre-dominantly Muslim village.
The family’s version is corroborated by Younis Chaudhary, a state Congress secretary, who says he accompanied the family and Ziauddin to the police outpost. “Ziauddin was very scared. I told him we must go and clear his name. Ziauddun was a decent child, I met him every day and complimented him on his hairstyle. He could not have taken his life,” says Younis.
Says Yameen, “When we met him on February 27, he looked battered. He was crying and was very scared. The policemen, I don’t know their names, said we would be also taken into custody. The girl’s father was present too, and kept insisting that Ziauddin knew where his daughter was.”
He also claims that the girl had called up her father while they were at the police station and said she was fine, and that Ziauddin was not involved. “That angered the father more.”
Ziauddin’s uncle Mohammad Salim, 45, claims he saw the policemen “thrashing” his nephew on February 28.
At his home, Ziauddin’s family recounts how the 16-year-old, who had studied till Class 4 and had been working at a sofa-making shop since the age of 10, wanted to make it “big”. “He earned Rs 1,000 a month. Lately he had started reading the Quran and said he would become a maulvi or open his own sofa shop. The girl in question was a dhobi and worked near Ziauddin’s shop. They may have known each other, but my son had nothing to do with her elopement,” says Yameen.
The girl’s home, 3 km away, is locked. Neighbours say the family was one of the two Muslim families in the area. “They left on March 1,” said a neighbour.