New Delhi: The prosecution case against the “masterminds” of the June 10 violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Prayagraj seems to be majorly based on the purported statements of policemen and a few private individuals rather than solid evidence.
Describing the violent agitation against the offensive remarks against Prophet Muhammad by a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the three first information reports (FIRs) were filed the next day of the incident after an unexplained delay of 12-18 hours in near identical narration have accused Muslim activists of planning the violence at Atala, Asghari Tiraha and Shaukat Ali Chouraha in the city.
The police in the first three FIRs (0118/2022, P.S. Khuldabad; 0175/2022, PS Kareli; 0176/2022, PS Kareli) have alleged that a mob of thousands with children took to the streets after the Friday congregational, throwing stones, shooting pistols and lobbing bombs, gravely injuring three security personnel and destroying police vehicles.
Despite over 5,000 people hurling bombs and opening gunfire, as per the FIR, none of the policemen or any passer-by suffered injuries either caused by the explosives or the bullets. No FIR has been filed by any common citizen. Even the prosecution has not submitted any grave hospital report.
The entire case has been built on the statements of 60 eyewitnesses, 54 of whom are police officials. There are striking similarities in the language of the FIRs and the alleged corroborative witness statements.
“Hazaron logon ki ugra bheed uttejnatmat unmaad phailane waale dharmik naarebazi karte hue police/PAC bal par hamlawar ho kar jaanlewa pathraw karne lagi (raising religious slogans and spreading hysterical frenzy, a furious mob of thousands resorted to deadly stone pelting while attacking the police/PAC force).”
“Dharmik vidwesh wa unmaad phailane ki niyat se dharm vishesh ke sambandh men narebazi karte hue bheed atyant hinsak ho gayi (the crowd turned violent, raising slogans against a particular religion with the intention of spreading religious hatred and frenzy).”
“Log daudte hue, maan-bahan ki gaali dete hue, jaan se maarne ki dhamki dete hue tatha naarebazi karte hue apne haathon men patthar wa bomb liye daurte aa rahe the aur kah rahe the ki police walon kaafir hain, inhen qatai nahin chhodna, inko maaro, maaro (with stones and bombs in their hands, people were running — hurling abuses and shouting not to spare policemen and kill them as they are infidels).”
“Nabaligh bachchon ko bhi uksakar narebazi wa pattharbaazi karai gayi (minors were too instigated and made to raise slogans and indulge in brick-batting).”
These are among a few sentences that are ad verbatim in the FIRs and the purported statements of the witnesses.
Almost similar narrations are also there in the statements of four private individuals — Anitesh Kumar Srivastava, Sumit Nishad, Amit Gupta and Umesh Chand Jaiswal, who belong to different areas and police stations.
Interestingly, the statements of the rest two witnesses (Md Meraj and Md Salim) have also got their statements recorded verbatim.
“…dinank 10-06-2022 ki ghatna ke baad abhi bhi log dare sahmen hain tatha apne apne gharon men dubke hain, dukane bhi band hain, logon ke mann men abhi bhi darr bana hua hai. Prashasan ke laakh samjhane ke bawajood bhi logon ke mann se darr nahin nikal pa raha hai,” read their alleged statement.
(…following the incident dated 10-06-2022, people are still scared and hiding in their homes. Shops are also closed. Fear still remains in their minds. Despite the administration’s attempts, people are unable to get rid of the fear.)
Against 70 named and 5,000 unnamed accused, the first FIR was registered at 03:13 hours on June 11 (14 hours after the incident) under severe IPC sections 307, 395, 436 and 506, including 19 others, in addition to sections 4 and 5 of the Arms Act, section 7 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, section 83 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act and sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
Registered under the same sections of the same legislations, the second case was registered against 14 identified and over 200 unidentified individuals, including well-known activist Javed Mohammad, around 18 hours after the incident.
The third FIR under the same sections was lodged against 11 named and over 250 unnamed accused nearly 19 hours after the incident.
Registering two FIRs at two different police stations for the same incident violates a 2001 Supreme Court ruling (T.T. Antony Vs State of Kerala & Ors), which says only one FIR can be registered for one crime.
The apex court, more recently in the case of Mohammad Zubair, co-founder of the fake news buster website Alt News, observed, “Contents of all FIRs seem to be similar. What seems to be happening is that as he gets bail in one case, he is remanded in another. This vicious cycle is continuing.”
JAVED LED THE PROTEST, BUT WHERE’S THE EVIDENCE?
Dubbing Javed, the 53-year-old activist as the “mastermind” of the incident, the police claimed the 53-year-old activist had mobilised the protest through his Facebook post, a secret meeting at a guest house in Kareli and by distributing handbills.
“Javed Mohammad alias Pump is the mastermind of the incident. He along with his accomplice provoked people to attack the police with stones and bombs. He has a criminal background and had played an active role during anti-CAA/NRC protests at Mansur Ali Park. He had given a call through a Facebook post and WhatsApp messages for people to assemble at Atala after Friday prayer and stage a violent protest,” alleged a police witness in his purported statement.
The allegation has been repeated ad verbatim by all police witnesses in their statements. Interestingly, Javed’s accomplices have been mentioned in all the purported statements in identical order.
But there is no evidence (like his cell phone location, CCTV footage to prove his presence on the spot, etc.) in support of the claims made by the police witnesses that have been enclosed in the investigation records, accessed by NewsClick.
Rubbishing the allegation, his family said he was at throughout the day on Friday (June 10), went to offer the congregational prayer at a nearby mosque, and the family had lunch together. He went again in the evening to offer namaz and returned home. Riding his own scooty, he then went at 8 pm to the police station where he was detained and later arrested.
His family said they have CCTV footage from a neighbour that shows him on a scooty near his house at 2:27 pm, 30 minutes after the police say violence erupted in Atala, approximately 2.6 km away, and they have photos that show him following the police on his own scooty after they came to take him away later that night.
According to the police, Javed was leading the protest that day at three locations. As he instigated people at Atala and violence erupted there, the police said, he slipped into the mob and left for the second location. After turning the agitators against the police there as well, he left for the third location, led people and incited the violence.
Again there is no evidence, except the alleged statements of the witnesses, in support of the allegation. Given the heightened violence depicted in the FIRs, which describe different incidents in two locations in the same area, he could not have been simultaneously rioting at two different places.
The police theory says the violence at Atala began around 2 pm, and it was followed by rioting at the other two locations at 2:30 and 3 pm, respectively. But locals claim the violence did not continue for even an hour.
Those who have been named as conspirators or masterminds, their participation in the anti-CAA protests have been cited to prove that they are criminals.
They include Javed, a leader of the Welfare Party of India who is also called “Javed Pump” because of his water pumps business, Umar Khalid, an activist associated with the Students Islamic Organisation (SIO); Fazal Khan, a local leader of the Samajwadi Party, Shah Alam, district president of the Hyderabad-based All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Zeeshan Rahmani, a local leader of the AIMIM, and Ashish Mittal, a doctor from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the general secretary of the All-India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha.
While Javed was arrested and jailed in Deoria district, at least 200 km from his home town, the rest five accused are on the run. A non-bailable arrest warrant has been issued against them, and a reward of Rs 25,000 for information to locate them has also been announced.
He was booked on July 16 under the stringent National Security Act (NSA), 1980, which allows the state to detain a person without charges for 12 months.
NO SEIZURE MEMO
Contrary to his family’s claim that Javed went to the police station, after he was called for questioning on his own, riding his own scooty on June 10 evening, cops alleged in an FIR (0177/2022, PS Kareli) that he was arrested following a raid at his house on the tip-off of an informer.
“…an informer told us that accused Javed Ahmad (read Mohammad), who was involved in the violence, is present in his house with a tamancha (country-made pistol) in his possession. He can be nabbed and the pistol can be seized if the information is acted upon swiftly,” reads the FIR.
The informant cop, Ravi Kumar Katiyar of Kareli police station, said a raid was accordingly conducted at the accused residence at JK Ashiana Colony at Kareli, and he was apprehended while “trying to flee from the rare gate of his house”.
Upon physical search of his body, the police alleged that a 315-bore pistol along with a live bullet was seized from the right pocket of his pant.
“Asked to show the licence mandatory to possess the firearm, he failed to produce it and offered apologies. Subsequently, he was arrested,” claimed the FIR.
Notably, the law requires a duly signed record of independent witness testimony to validate any such recovery from an accused. But, in this case, there is no document as required by the law.
The police claimed, “People who around came there during the arrest, but when they were asked to testify, they refused to comply and left without revealing their names and addresses.”
Javed’s wife, Parveen Fatima and his youngest daughter Sumaiya Fatima were illegally detained the same evening for two days after the police took him away on June 10. While they were let off, Javed was taken into custody and declared a “mastermind” of the incident.
The police claimed (FIR no. 0179/2022, PS Kareli) recovery of two more firearms (315-bore pistol and 12-bore pistol) with four live shells was made during the demolition of his house on June 12.
The cops alleged it was discovered in black colour polythene from below a mattress by the Prayagraj Development Authority (PDA) officials when they were taking out the leftover belongings of the family to safety before demolition.
The police also claimed to have found a khukuri (a machete type sharp edge weapon) and a pamphlet, allegedly asking people to gather at Atala at 2 pm on Friday and violently deal with those who create obstacles.
Notably, the demolition was carried out in the presence of thousands of people and under full media glare, but no such recovery was shown on TV channels — which were doing live streaming of the incident.
The police also failed to find anyone from the spectators or neighbours to sign the seizure memo at the spot. It was allegedly signed by the accused and police officials.
News channels showed a poster that said, “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty,” calling it incriminating material.
SELECTIVE FACEBOOK POSTS
On June 4, 2022, an FIR was registered against Javed at Kareli police station for hurting religious sentiments over a Facebook post about the allegedly one-side investigation carried out by the UP police after a protest against anti-prophet remarks turned violent in Kanpur and a second post on the independence of the judiciary.
In the post, according to the FIR (0167/2022, P. S. Kareli), the accused had written, “Thirty people have been arrested so far in connection with the Kanpur violence. The police are mulling over invoking the Gangster Act. Against whom will the action be taken, it’s big question. No one will make any indecent comment against any religion if the government today stops tolerating it. But it is apparent that the governments are silent, thereby promoting such elements. The central government, the state government, the MP, the MLA should respect all religions, but this does not seem to be happening for the past few years.”
In another post, the FIR alleged, he had stated, “They also have control over the courts. We trusted the court. And therefore, they are today able to build the Ram temple. We are no more ready to be cheated again.”
The two posts are not there on his timeline. His family said that he had deleted the Facebook post at the request of police officials in Prayagraj.
However, the police have annexed screenshots of the posts with the notice invoking the NSA against him.
He also wrote about the police refusing to register an FIR against the organisers of a religious gathering in Prayagraj on January 30, 2022, where Hindu monks declared India a Hindu nation.
“Why did the Kanpur violence occur? Why does the state government not investigate the real disease? Until when will people like Nupur Sharma and Yati Narsinghanand make obscene remarks against the Prophet Muhammad, and the government and police will keep quiet? Yeti had made indecent remarks against Islam a few months ago at Sangam in Allahabad. Many people tried to lodge an FIR against him. I myself, too, had registered a complaint with the SHO and the CO. But nothing happened till date. Why are such people allowed to use abusive language for any religion. How long will Muslims continue to be targeted? People will naturally get angry…,” Javed has written in the post.
The family said the administration called a meeting on June 9 to stop Friday protests. Javed had attended the meeting.
He wrote on Facebook the next day, “Bewajaah koi bhi sadak par ikattha bilkul na ho jisse poori millat ko nuksaan uthaana pade, jumma padhein aur apne ghar jaakar dua kariye aman aur shanti mohobbat kaayam rahe.”
(Do not gather on the road together without reason. The entire community will have to bear the brunt. Offer your Friday prayers, go home and pray that harmony, peace and love will prevail.)
He further wrote, “Yeh shehr hamesha shanti-priya raha hai. Haalaat ke maddenazar, humein khamoshi se jumma namaaz padh kar Allah se dua maangni chahiye amno aman ke liye. Sabko qanoon ke daayre mein apni baat rakhne ka adhikaar hai. Memorandum banayein hum sab mil kar.”
(This city has always been peace-loving. Keeping in mind the circumstances, we should quietly offer our Friday prayers and pray to Allah for peace. Everyone has the right to put forward their view within the boundaries of the law. We should come together and prepare a memorandum.)
ATTEMPT TO IMPLICATE AFREEN FATIMA TOO?
Without any evidence, Prayagraj’s Senior Superintendent of Police Ajay Kumar, while talking to the media, accused one of Javed’s daughters Afreen Fatima, a student activist from the Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University and a critic of the BJP, of “being involved in such activities”.
The police have annexed in the NSA notice a purported statement given to cops by Javed during questioning. “My daughter Afreen Fatima is highly educated. Whatever I post on social, I do it with her consultation,” he allegedly told the police.
The investigators claimed when he was asked about his post regarding the alleged political pressure on the judiciary; he said he wrote the post on the insistence of his daughter.
In the alleged confession, he said, according to the police, he now realises that he has committed a blunder.
“Not trusting the court has proved to be a big mistake. I won’t do anything like this from now on. I will also ask my daughter, Afreen Fatima, not to indulge in anti-national activities,” the investigators have quoted him as saying.
DUE PROCESS ABANDONED
Javed was issued a notice on July 15 to explain why he should not be booked under the NSA. His lawyers had one-month time (till August 15) to file a reply.
But, surprisingly, the Governor approved the district magistrate’s injunction to book the accused under the draconian law on July 21 — much before the expiry of the time period for the accused to file a reply. It means he was even denied his right to be heard once before being booked.
Both Prayagraj SSP Kumar and District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar Khatri could not be reached for comments.
A senior officer close to the investigation told NewsClick, “We have all the evidence which we will place before the court for consideration. Let the court decide.