On Saturday morning, Faiz Khan (24) was shot in the neck in Rampur. The evening before, Mohammed Sheroz (23) was shot in the lower abdomen in the neighbouring district of Sambhal. Both of them succumbed to their injuries within hours.
Their families say both worked as drivers, and were on their way to work when they were killed in firing during protests in UP against the new citizenship law. And more than 24 hours later, no one knows who killed them.
But what their families are really struggling to come to terms with is this: the apathy and negligence that shunted them from one hospital to another, and the pleading with police for hours to hand over the bodies. “The police just stood and watched,” says Sheroz’s brother, Mohammad Adil.
On Friday evening, according to Adil, Sheroz left for Kashipur in Uttarakhand along with his employer. “Around 4 pm, we received a call that my brother had been shot and taken to Sewa Hospital from Shankar chauraha (epicentre of the protests in Sambhal). When we reached the hospital, they had no oxygen cylinders available, and referred us to a private multispecialty hospital. Sheroz was bleeding heavily, and we tied a shawl around his abdomen. The police saw us rushing him in the ambulance. But they did not accompany us or ask the hospital to help. They just stood and watched,” Adil says.
At the private hospital, says Adil, the gates were shut due to the lockdown, and it took the ambulance siren for the staff to allow them inside from another gate. But the situation inside was similar — no oxygen cylinders. “The doctor told us that due to the clampdown, they were out of oxygen cylinders for the last three days. They asked us to rush to a hospital in Moradabad,” says Adil.
However, during the 40-minute ambulance ride, Sheroz’s condition deteriorated. “Sheroz was motionless by the time we reached Moradabad. The doctor at the hospital told us that due to the delay in providing oxygen, my brother had died in the ambulance,” he says.
The family was then directed by hospital authorities to take the body for post-mortem. “However, the police documents were yet to reach the mortuary, and the staff locked up the facility and left at midnight” says Adil.
After more than a 24-hour delay, the family says, the body was handed over around 11.30 pm Saturday. “But we haven’t received the post-mortem report or the FIR. The police say they have videos of the stone-pelting and firing. But no arrest has been made,” says Sheroz’s father, Ameen.
Sambhal SP Yamuna Prasad told The Indian Express that “investigation is still underway” in the case and that “an FIR has been registered against unknown accused”. Prasad, however, did not comment on the family’s claim that the post-mortem report has not been handed over.
Around 60 km to the east, Faiz Khan left home on Saturday morning to report for duty at the taxi stand near the Civil Lines road. At the mosque just 3 km from the stand, hundreds of protesters had gathered in answer to a call by clerics. “Around 11 am, we got a call from an unknown person that my son had been shot. They asked us to come to the district hospital,” says Faiz’s father, Asim Khan, who runs a sweets shop.
“When we reached the hospital, my son was still breathing. But for over two hours, there was no one to treat my son. When my family started protesting, the police came with lathis, and took him away, saying he needs to be put on ventilator,” says Asim. “They put him into an ambulance, and only I was allowed to accompany them. I was told that we are being taken to Moradabad.”
In Moradabad, the father claims, the ambulance went to the mortuary. “The police or the doctors did not even inform us about the time of death. But our trauma did not end there. We told them to hand over the body to us. But hours later, the police told that post-mortem would take place in a hospital in Moradabad. The police insisted that the body would be handed over only if we did not file any complaint,” says Asim.
“The police have not recorded our statement or given us the post-mortem report. They took our signatures at the mortuary and handed over the body around 7 pm. That is the only document on which our signatures were taken… We witnessed how my son was treated at the hospital. We have videos of how he was dragged away by police. We don’t want to be traumatised further,” he says.
Rampur SP Dr Ajay Pal Sharma did not respond to calls from The Indian Express seeking comment. A local police officer said that “the post-mortem report is being finalised and a detailed FIR will be lodged accordingly”. The officer confirmed that the statements of the family and eyewitnesses are yet to be recorded in the case.