“They thrashed me with lathis and wooden planks and chased me for a kilometre until I collapsed near a temple, where more people joined the mob, leaving me half dead,” said Samiuddin, 62, as he asked his younger brother for help to adjust his broken, plastered legs at a conference room in Delhi on Saturday. He was meeting a few reporters for the first time since being discharged from a private hospital in the city earlier in the week.
Samiuddin was recounting the mob assault on him and a cattle trader, Qasim, 45, in Madapur village of Uttar Pradesh’s Hapur on June 18. The mob of Hindu villagers had accused them of cow slaughter. While Qasim was lynched, Samiuddin was grievously injured.
The police have maintained that the Muslim men were victims of road rage related to a minor motorcycle accident, inviting accusations of sabotaging the prosecution. This despite the testimony of the villagers to the contrary and video clips showing the mob trying to force a blood-soaked Samiuddin into confessing that he was involved in cow slaughter while pulling his beard and slapping him. In another video of the assault, a dying Qasim is seen lying on the ground, asking his suspected attackers for water.
On Saturday, Samiuddin sent a letter to senior Uttar Pradesh police officials, narrating the attack as the prime witness and demanding an unbiased investigation. The police have not recorded his statement yet, he said.
So, what happened that day? “I was in my field smoking a bidi with my neighbour, Hasan,” Samiuddin said, pressing his hands to the chest to ease a bout of coughing. “We were there to fetch fodder for our cattle. It was around 11.30 am when we spotted a group of 10-15 men assaulting Qasim, whom we had seen a few minutes before walking towards the fields. There was no cow, no motorbike or any vehicle there.”
Samiuddin is the sole bread winner of his family of five daughters, two sons, wife and an aged mother. He owns owns five bigha land and cultivates another seven bigha owned collectively by his elder brother, Mehrubeen, 65, who lives with his family in Ghaziabad and runs a small shop, and younger brother Yaseen, 45, who lives with his family in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, and makes a living driving a pick-up van. Samiuddin’s family also owns a cow and two calves, he said.
Samiuddin said he did not know much about Qasim other than that he frequently traded cattle in Hapur’s villages. Mehrubeen mentioned having heard about Qasim being arrested in a case related to livestock around four years ago but this could not be verified with the police.
Qasim, according to the police’s records, lived in Pilkhuwa, a small town around 5 km from Madapur, a largely Muslim village of around 100 families. Most villagers earn a living farming – mostly wheat and rice – or as daily wage labourers in Pilkhuwa and Hapur city, said Mehrubeen.
Samiuddin said the mob set upon him when he tried to save Qasim. “They mercilessly beat us both but Hasan escaped and delivered the news to our village,” he said.
Police under the scanner
The police came under fire when a picture surfaced of some police officers escorting the mob as they dragged Qasim along a road. The police were forced to launch an inquiry against the officials and issue an apology.
The police have since filed a first information report for murder, attempt to murder, rioting and unlawful assembly against unidentified persons. The FIR, of which Scroll.in has a copy, was registered on the basis of a complaint written by Dinesh Tomar, a resident of the neighbouring Hindalpur village, and signed by Yaseen, who had rushed home that afternoon after hearing about the assault on his brother. Yaseen said his family asked Tomar to file the complaint on their behalf because they was the only literate person they knew.
The complaint states that Qasim and Samiuddin were beaten up by a group of men from Bajhaida Khurd, a largely Hindu village around a kilometre from Madapur, in what was a “road rage incident”.
“What could we do?” Yaseen replied when asked why the complaint did not mention cow slaughter. “We had to believe whatever the police told us. There was no witness who would go on record. And the police forced us into agreeing to the road rage story. They said we wouldn’t be allowed to meet my brother unless we did and they would also book him in a case of cow slaughter.”
Tomar said he learned about the assault on Samiuddin from his son Anees, who came to his home asking for help. “I found out the reality on June 18 night when I saw the video clips and realised that the police had bluffed us,” said Tomar, who too wrote to senior police officials on Saturday explaining his role in the matter.
The police have reportedly arrested four people for the lynching so far. But one of the accused, Yudhistra, was granted bail on July 4. In his bail order, a copy of which was obtained by Scroll.in, the magistrate stated, that “the district administration has told the court the injured person has mentioned the names of the suspects”.
“How can that be when when the police have yet not recorded my statement?” asked Samiuddin. In his letter to the police officials, Samiuddin identified five suspects and Yudhistra is not one of them.
“I was taken from one hospital to another as some of them refused to admit me,” he added. “I was semi-conscious but I could hear a few things. I remember having heard about Qasim’s death when I was taken to GS Medical College in Pilkhuwa. On July 6, I was brought to a private hospital in Delhi by my relatives, but I was still not declared fit for giving a statement to the police.”
Samiuddin’s revelations point towards a larger criminal conspiracy involving the police, alleged the Supreme Court lawyer Vrinda Grover. “The injured eyewitness’ account is the most important evidence in the case but it has not been recorded until now,” she added. “The complicity of the police with the accused is visible, and it is not surprising that the victims’ families have no faith left in the system. Who will give them justice?”
Scroll.in contacted Inspector General of Police, Meerut Range, Ram Kumar, but he disconnected the call as soon he realised the questions were about the Hapur case. Superintendent of Police, Hapur, Sankalp Sharma could not be contacted despite several attempts. Both did not respond to text messages either. This report will be updated as and when they do.