On a narrow lane of Madhwas Darwaza area in Lunawada town of Mahisagar district, the very first house is a one room kitchen dwelling packed with utensils, one cot, a broken mirror and just enough space for four people to sit. The house has always been known in the neighborhood for constant police presence around it, but in the last two weeks, visitors have increased.
“I did not get to seen my son in the last two months. I could not even see him after he died,” said 60-year-old Raabia Hanif Jamaal. Her son, 34-year-old Sajid Hanif alias Rabdi, was shot dead by police in an alleged hostage situation on August 18 night. Twelve days later, as the family tries to come to terms with the loss, several unanswered questions leave them distressed.
Alleging that the encounter was “staged”, Rabdi’s family plans to move the Gujarat High Court seeking an inquiry into the killing. “Even when my son was in jail, the police would come looking for him. Few weeks before he was killed, police had come to our house and threatened to find him and parade him naked in the town. In all these years, policemen have come to our house several times looking for him and threatening to kill him, but I did not know they will actually kill him one day. I knew my son was involved in looting and theft and was jailed, but was he such a dreaded criminal to be killed,” Raabia asked.
The family claimed that they had tried to call Rabdi on the day he was killed, but his phone was unreachable throughout. “That night our neighbours told me that Rabdi has been shot at. I did not know he was dead,” she said. The family said that they were not informed about the encounter by police. The family had refused to accept Rabdi’s body after the autopsy alleging that all the procedures were carried out without informing the family. “In late May, he was released from jail and had vowed to give up ill habits. He was even observing roza with us and we had planned to get him married in a few months. But he had left home two months ago saying that the police were threatening him,” she said.
At ‘Nazim Awas’, where Rabdi was killed by police after he allegedly took a woman and a child hostage, is just a 10-minute drive from his house. The place wore a desolate look and people refuse to speak about the encounter. Adjacent to the house is a temple which marks the beginning of a Hindu locality. At the temple, 15 state reserve police personnel have been camping since the alleged encounter. “Police bandobast is in place to avoid any untoward incident. Rabdi’s locality is close by and we have to ensure that nothing undesirable happens,” said one of the personnel.
The complaint filed by Sub-Inspector Pravin Karen, who had shot Rabdi, stated, “At 7.45 pm on August 18, we received information that Rabdi was breaking into houses with swords… in Jaratiwad area.” According to the FIR filed against Rabdi, six policemen, including Karen, left for the spot. They were joined by 11 more from the Local Crime Branch (LCB), led by Inspector H N Patel and SOG Sub-Inspector M V Bhagora. “When we cornered him (Rabdi) and tried to nab him, he took Fatima’s daughter and a young kid hostage and placed a sword on their neck and shouted that if we arrest him then he would kill them. We tried to request him and warned him that if he doesn’t surrender then we would have to take strict action. Despite repeated warnings, he continued to keep the two hostage. I fired the first round in air, but he did not budge… We tried to approach him and free the hostages but he injured us with sword. I fired the second round on his leg. This made him more aggressive and he came towards us with the sword. I fired another round on his leg but since he had bent down, the bullet hit his stomach. He still came forward with the intention to hurt us and I fired another round that hit his neck. One of the three rounds had missed him and rebounded and hit a police constable on his leg. We immediately took Rabdi to a hospital where the doctor declared him dead,” the FIR based on the complaint of Karen stated.
The FIR charged Rabdi under IPC sections 307 (attempt to murder), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 333 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 457 (trespass to commit offence).
Deputy Superintendent of Police (Panchmahal) H N Kansagra, who is leading the investigation into the encounter, said that they were waiting for a detailed forensic report about fingerprints, footprints etc. “The post-mortem report states that Rabdi received two bullet wounds — one in the stomach and another in the neck which led to his death,” he said. Asked why the bullets were hit above the waist, Kansagra said, “Everything else is under investigation. The Sub-Inspector has stated in his complaint that Rabdi had bent down and that’s why the bullet hit his stomach, instead of the leg. We are still in the process of recording statements to ascertain his purpose of being in the locality with weapons. Our policemen only cornered him near the house, they did not chase him,” he added.