AN ACCUSED in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, facing charges over killing of eight members of a minority community, was found dead at his home in Kutba village on Saturday afternoon of gunshot injuries. Ramdass alias Kaala, 42, was out on bail.
Police are probing if the death was a result of revenge killing, with Kaala’s brother alleging some gunmen had barged into his home and shot him. Kutba was one of the worst-hit villages in the riots.
Looking for clues, the police raided a rehabiliation camp in nearby Palda village, where the Muslims of Kutba had moved after the riots five years ago. The police have put mobile phones of people at the camp under watch to trace their location at the time of the death. Additional police and PAC personnel have been deployed in Kutba as “precautionary measure”.
Senior Superintendent of Police, Muzaffarnagar, Sudhir Kumar Singh, however, stressed that Kaala’s death “had no connection with the riots case against him”.
“The FIR into the death was lodged today, almost after 24 hours… We have recovered broken bangles from the spot. The evidence found suggests it could also be a case of suicide. Several articles have been sent to the laboratory and picture would be clear soon.”
Circle officer, Muzaffarnagar, Hari Ram Yadav said they were informed around 2.30 pm on Saturday. That was nearly 90 minutes after Kaala died, soon after he had come home from his general merchant shop nearby.
According to his brother, some men who had arrived on a bike entered his residence and shot him in the temple at close range, killing him instantly. His two sons and a daughter were on the first floor of the house at the time, while his wife was not home. His family members claimed several neighbours saw the assailants fleeing after killing him.
The police said they had not found any weapon near the body.
Kutba pradhan Ashok said the village had “a mixed population” and had not seen any trouble since the riots.
“An FIR under Section 302 (murder) of the IPC was lodged by Kaala’s brother. No arrests have been made so far,” said Mahendra Tyagi, the acting in-charge of the Shahpur Police Station, adding that raids at the Palda rehab camp had so far not yielded any clues.
Kaala’s brother also claimed in the FIR that several people were angry over Kaala being granted bail, and that once earlier too, he had been attacked. While the brother claimed Kaala had told police about this, Station House Officer, Shahpur Police Station, Kushal Pal Singh denied this.
Kaala, a Dalit, was one of the 10 people named in an FIR, along with 250 unidentified people, following the killing of eight people in Kutba on September 8, 2013, during the riots. The eight killed were Shamshad, his son Irshad, Waheed, Faiyyaz, Tarrabu, Kayyum, Momin and a woman, Khatun.
The 10 named in the FIR, including Kaala, had surrendered before the Special Investigating Cell formed by the then Akhilesh Yadav government to probe the riots. While the case against him is still pending in a Muzzafarnagar court, Kaala had got bail.
Overall, 62 people had been killed in the 2013 riots.