A day after Muslim leaders, upset with the acquittal of 10 accused in a 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots case in which a boy and his aunt were killed and set ablaze, demanded that the state remove its counsel in the case and approach the High Court in appeal, the Uttar Pradesh government Tuesday dropped additional government counsel Sajid Rana from its panel.
While Muslim leaders blamed poor police investigation for the acquittals, Rana said that the families of the two victims turned hostile during the trial. And for reasons they don’t explain, the families no longer wish to pursue the case.
The 10 were acquitted last Friday by the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Muzaffarnagar.
The boy, Aas Mohammad, and his aunt Sarajo were killed and their bodies burnt by a mob after riots broke out in Laak village on September 8, 2013.
Aas Mohammad’s father Mohammad Iqbal (43) fled the village and now lives in Kandhla area of Shamli where he built a house with the relief money the government handed him. His mother Ramzane, wife Salma Bano and four children — the youngest a six-month-old girl — are with him. Waheed, Iqbal’s elder brother and husband of Sarajo, also lives in Shamli now.
Iqbal says he will never return to Laak. “We are scared of returning home. I never went back to Laak after my son was killed.
Kin of boy, woman killed in Muzaffarnagar turn hostile, UP govt drops counsel after 10 acquitted have come to know that the court has acquitted the ten booked in the case for want of evidence. I don’t want to pursue the case,” he said. He does not say why he does not want to appeal.
“We left the village for Shamli the day the riots broke out. My son Aas returned to the village to give his grandmother the house keys. At that time, we never thought the situation would go out of control. Later that evening, I was told by a Laak resident that a mob had killed my son and injured my mother-in-law. The next day, police sent her to Baghpat,” Salma, mother of Aas, said.
According to Salma, Ramzane narrated the mob attack to them. “They first attacked my sister-in-law (Sarajo) and hit her with a rod on the head. She was then shot twice and set ablaze,” she said.
“It was at this point that my mother-in-law tried to stop them. They tried to attack her with acid. My son, who was hiding in the toilet, shouted for help when he saw his grandmother being attacked. My mother-in-law said a man then told the mob to kill my son because he would identify them later. They took a rod and pierced it through his chest,” Salma said.
She said the two families fell out after her brother-in-law Waheed, during the investigation of the case, submitted an affidavit stating that he did not witness the incident.
On Monday, three days after the acquittal, a delegation of Muslims, led by Maulana Mohammad Zakir of Muzaffarnagar and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind district president Maulana Mufti Bin Yameen, met District Magistrate Nikhil Chand Shukla, demanding that government counsel Sajid Rana, who appeared in the Laak case, be replaced and an appeal filed in the High Court.
“I told them that Laak village now falls under Shamli district and they should approach officials there regarding their demands,” Shukla told The Indian Express.
Government counsel Sajid Rana said that of the ten witnesses for the prosecution, five from the two affected families were declared hostile.
“All five witnesses — Shamshad, Iqbal, Waheed, Iqbal’s mother Ramzane and Iqbal’s brother Nawab — were declared hostile after they did not support the prosecution theory. They said they can’t identify any of the accused. The prosecution cannot do anything if witnesses turn hostile,” Rana said.
Iqbal had filed an FIR on September 22, 2013 and named 13 people while Sarajo’s husband Waheed named eight in his FIR. Both FIRs were clubbed and the case was treated as one by the investigating agency. The Special Investigation Team arrested 11 people including a minor, all residents of Laak. A chargesheet was filed under different sections including those related to murder and destruction of evidence.
On Tuesday, Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate Shukla confirmed that Sajid Rana had been removed from the panel following a direction from the state government.
Shamli District Magistrate Om Prakash Verma said the government had sought details of the case. “In the report it was mentioned that the case resulted in acquittals because of poor efforts by the prosecution,” he said.
Asked whether they would be filing an appeal against the order, Verma said the district government counsel was studying the judgment and preparing a report.