A day after two students from Jammu and Kashmir were assaulted in Mahendragarh, Haryana, police said the six accused had, the same day, assaulted five Muslim men as they walked out of a mosque after their Friday prayers.
According to Mahendragarh Superintendent of Police Kamaldeep, the Muslim men were the “original targets” of the attackers and the two students had been assaulted “mistakenly”.
On Saturday, police said they had registered two separate FIRs against the six accused: one for allegedly assaulting Aftab Ahmad and Amjad Ali, the two students from J&K who studied at Central University of Haryana in Mahendragarh, and the other for allegedly assaulting five Muslim labourers — Sadik, Sharik, Intazar, Rehman and Aslam — from Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts in UP. Two of the accused were arrested on Saturday.
“When we came out of the mosque, a group of 10 men came on five bikes and asked us to remove our skull caps. They also asked two others, who had their skull caps in their pockets, to take them out. When we refused to do as they said, they threatened us. They later followed us and assaulted us near the factory where we work,” Sadik told The Sunday Express. Sadik and the others have been working in Mahendergarh for five months.
On Friday, the two students, both residents of Rajouri in Jammu, had alleged that a group of at least 10 people had started following them soon after they came out of the same mosque in Mahendragarh. The J&K government had demanded strong action against the accused, with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti saying she was “shocked and disturbed” by the incident.
Police said the accused were involved in a fight at three different locations. “The first scuffle took place at Angoori Devi dharamshala. Two of the accused were on a bike, which grazed past the five Muslim men who were walking on the congested road outside the mosque. That led to a scuffle. The accused told us that these students from J&K were present at the spot, though they were not involved in the scuffle. After this, the two accused called four more men and this group of six, they claim, went in search of these Muslim men. At Masani Chowk, they saw these two Kashmiri students and assumed they were part of the same group and beat them up. Then they went ahead, saw the five Muslim men near Railway Road and beat them up. So these are two different incidents, involving the same accused,” Kamaldeep told The Sunday Express, adding that the accused are from neighbouring villages. “One of them is a BSc student in a local college. Two others, who are in their twenties, are self-employed,” he said.
The students, however, claimed that police were “distorting the facts” and that the two incidents are not connected.
“I don’t know who these men were. When we were standing near the chowk, they first snatched my helmet and started assaulting us. We had not seen these men near the dharamshala, as police have been claiming. If we had witnessed a scuffle there, we would have definitely noticed these men. We have no clue about the assault on the five other Muslim men. We have no connection with that incident. Both are separate incidents,” Aftab Ahmad, one of the two Kashmiri students, told the SP and District Magistrate who visited the university on Saturday.
The labourers also said they had not seen any Kashmiri students when the scuffle took place outside the mosque and later when they were assaulted. “These students were not present when they told us to remove our skull cap or when we where assaulted later. These are two separate incidents,” Sadik said.
Mahendragarh Deputy Commissioner Garima Mittal assured the students that a “thorough investigation” would be conducted. “These are only the findings of the prima facie investigation. The students should have full faith in the administration. During the course of investigation, there will be new revelations. Also, we will record additional statements. We ensure that justice will be done to the students and a thorough investigation will be conducted,” she said.
On the injuries sustained by the students, Chief Medical Officer Dr Indrajeet Dhankar, said, “The injuries look simple in nature. However, there is one injury near the ear (Aftab’s), which needs further investigations. An ENT specialist will investigate and submit the final report.”