At 7 am on December 30, Ateeq Ahmed (24), Mohd Khalid (53), Shoaib Khalid (26) and a clerk at a government office were released from Muzaffarnagar jail — ten days after their arrest — after police admitted they failed to find evidence linking them to the violence in the city on December 20.
SP City Satpal Antil said the four were released as per Section 169 of the CrPC as police had submitted a report saying they did not find evidence against them. “We are undertaking a very fair investigation and if we find that somebody was not part of rioting or stone-pelting, accordingly we are taking action,” he said.
Asked why were the men picked up in the first place, Antil said there was stone-pelting happening on top of the clerk’s house, and that the others were believed to be part of a crowd. He denied allegations of beating or denying food and water. “Lathis were only used during riot control. Everyone’s human rights were ensured,” he said.
The men say their ordeal started ten days earlier when police picked them up. The clerk at the district employment office, who is in his 50s, and his 20-year-old son were asleep at home on the night of the December 20 when police allegedly broke open their door.
“It was around 10.30 pm. I was asleep, and the next thing I knew our gate had been broken and a group of around 60 policemen and 50-odd locals were breaking everything. I was repeatedly hit on my legs and shoulders with lathis,” the man, who did not wish to be named, alleged.
“We weren’t told anything. Both me and my son were picked up and thrown in the police van and taken to the thana. Our phones were taken away. In the barracks, there were at least 100 people. The police behaviour was most inhuman. We weren’t given food or water. When I asked for water, they told me to drink my own urine,” he said.
After being produced in court on December 21, he and his son, who has done a course in hotel management and is currently an intern at a hotel in Delhi, were put in jail.
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“There we did not face any problem. I also got medicines for my wounds, but I don’t understand how this happened to me. I only work and come home. Neither me nor my sons have ever participated in a protest. Even on the day I was released, I went straight to office,” he said.
His son has still not been released. “I don’t know when he will be let out. If at all he will,” he said.
At 4 pm on the afternoon of December 20, Ateeq Ahmed, a BSc student at Delhi’s Zakir Hussain College, went to collect his father’s medical report and found that his creatinine levels were unusually high, signalling a problem in the kidneys. Panic calls and a visit to the family doctor followed, and he was advised to immediately admit his father to a hospital in Meerut.
At around 7 pm, Ahmed, along with his father Mohd Haroon (52) and his mother Rukhsana, left home for Meerut. They were accompanied by Haroon’s nephew Khalid (53) and his wife Firdaus, as well as Khalid’s son Shoaib (26). The family owns various steel companies in the city.
“Twenty minutes later, we were stopped at Meenakshi Chowk by policemen. They told us to stop the car and to get off. They were specifically pointing at Ateeq and me, and saying ‘yahi hain, inhone ne hi pattharbaazi ki’ (these are the people who threw stones),” said Shoaib, who is due to get married this month.
Haroon said he was told to step out of the car. “They told me I’m not patient and asked me to prove it. We showed them all the reports and papers. I was shivering, but they didn’t let us pass,” he said.
Shoaib said some policemen were sympathetic but were ultimately overpowered by the majority. “They were asking for our ID cards, the women were pleading but they dragged us and put us in a police bus. They didn’t tell us where we were being taken. Next we knew, we were in the police thana,” he said.
Helpless what to do next, the rest of the family returned. Haroon was admitted to a hospital in Muzaffarnagar on December 21, from where he was discharged on December 27 after several rounds of dialysis.
Khalid said there were more than 100 people at the thana. Unlike the clerk, Khalid says they were offered water — although no food — and were not hit. Shoaib, however, claimed he did see others being beaten up.
“Ultimately it’s the police which has let us out, so we’re thankful to them, but whatever is happening is not correct. They should only arrest those who they have evidence against,” he said.