On the evening of February 24, violent mobs had taken over the streets of North East Delhi when Naseer Khan and his sister made their way back home from a hospital visit. A taxi dropped them to their neighbourhood, North Ghonda, but witnessing the rioting, the driver panicked.
“The Ola cab driver was scared to go home alone,” recalled Abdul Jaleel Khan, Naseer Khan’s father. Naseer Khan, 30, a clerk in the National Cadet Corps, the youth organisation of the Indian armed forces, decided to accompany him.
The driver, who lived in the nearby Yamuna Vihar, reached home safely. Naseer Khan walked back. As he entered his lane, right outside his house, a bullet pierced his left eye. His father and his elder brother Khalid Khan rushed him to a hospital in a neighbour’s auto-rickshaw. He survived but lost vision in his left eye.
Two weeks later, on March 9, Naseer Khan lay recovering in the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital.
His father said no police official had contacted them. “They have not asked us even once what happened,” he said. No medico-legal certificate had been given to them – a mandatory requirement in medical cases that warrant investigation by the police. No witness statement had been recorded. No police First Information Report had been filed.
At least 53 people have been killed in the communal violence that gripped North East Delhi between February 23-26. While Delhi Police claim to have filed 702 cases related to the violence, it is unclear how many of these feature murder or attempt to murder charges.
Scroll.in spoke to the families of many victims of the violence who allege the police have not only been passive, failing to pursue such cases independently, even after they submitted written complaints, the police have ignored them.
In one case, the police did not file an FIR after a family reported a young man was missing. His body was later fished out of a drain, but the family claims no FIR has been filed yet.
In another case, the police belatedly filed an FIR – but without taking into account the complaint of a man who claims to have witnessed his brother fall to bullets fired by uniformed men.
Naseer Khan: No FIR, even though video evidence exists
Naseer Khan’s case should be easy to investigate for the police.
His neighbours have recorded videos of the violent mob gathered in their lane that evening. In the videos, which Scroll.in has reviewed, men armed with rods can be seen hurling verbal abuses and threats, with gunshots heard in the background.
Mohammad Saleem, who lives metres away from Naseer Khan’s house, even claims he can identify members of the mob. In a complaint filed in the Jaffrabad police station on March 1, he identified 16 men who he alleged were part of the mob that had carried out a “murderous attack” on his home. “They fired at my home…bullet marks still adorn the walls of my home,” his complaint stated. “They also hurled petrol bombs, which we fortunately doused with water just in time.”
In his complaint, Saleem referred to Naseer Khan. “As they rained bullets, one of them hit Naseer, who was standing on the road,” he wrote. As postscript, he noted: “The complainant has some videos from the day of the attacks.”
The police accepted Saleem’s complaint but are yet to file an FIR. Instead, Saleem claimed they were intimidating him.
On the evening of March 1, hours after he filed the complaint, Saleem received a call from the Jaffrabad police station. In the call – a recording of which Scroll.in has heard – Rakesh Kumar, a sub-inspector at the Jaffrabad police station, can be heard asking Saleem about the “boy who has been shot”.
“Where is that boy?” Kumar asked. “What is his name?” After Saleem provided him the details, Kumar demanded to know the name of the officer investigating Naseer’s case. When Saleem expressed ignorance, the police officer responded: “Someone must have done the MLC. What is the MLC number?” MLC is the medico-legal certificate, which is issued by a doctor in the presence of a police official.
When Saleem said he did not know that either, Kumar asked, sounding annoyed: “Is he [Naseer Khan] your son? If not, why have you lodged a complaint in his name? Does he not have his own parents?
Saleem tried to explain to Kumar that his complaint was about the attack on his house – not about Naseer’s shooting. Yet, he told the officer he would make those details available to him.
The next day, March 2, Saleem received another call from Kumar. Scroll.in has reviewed the recording of this conversation. This time, Kumar’s tone was decidedly terser. “This boy who you said got shot, where is he? We could not find him anywhere in the GTB hospital. You come to the thana.”
When Saleem hesitated, the police officer responded angrily: “If you think a case will be lodged just because you have written an application you are wrong. You are not Raja Harishchandra or a Supreme Court judge that we will believe whatever you have written. You have to come here and tell us.” Harishchandra is a Hindu mythical character who is believed to have never lied in his life.
The conversation ended with Saleem agreeing to visit Kumar in the police station. But he decided not to go – he said he was scared he would be targeted if he went. “If they can’t even find Naseer in the hospital, it is clear how serious they are about giving us justice,” he said.
Saleem passed on Kumar’s number to Naseer Khan’s father, Abdul Jaleel Khan, who phoned the officer. The call did not go well. The police officer was “rude and intimidating”, alleged Khan. “He kept referring to me as ‘tu’”. The use of the informal second-person pronoun in Hindi is considered disrespectful.
Khan said the police officer insisted that he come to the police station to meet him. “I told him I cannot, as there is no one else to attend to Naseer,” he said. “In any case, it is the duty of the police to come to the victim.”
Kumar did not come to the hospital, Khan said.
When Scroll.in phoned Kumar, he refused to talk about the case. “You can go to the thana and find out,” he said. At the Jaffrabad police station, Kumar was not available and other officials declined to respond to queries about whether any FIRs had been registered relating to the attack on Naseer Khan and Mohammad Saleem’s house.
Saleem, for his part, said he had been left disillusioned by the police’s behaviour. “Our home came under such intense attack that we had to flee in the dead of the night,” he said. “We came back and the first thing we did was go to the police, even naming the people we saw, but the police seem to be ignoring that part completely.”
Some of those identified as members of the mob can be seen in the video, Khan claimed. “The others could not be captured on video, but we have seen them,” he insisted. “Let the police mount an investigation at least.”
Ashfaq Hussain: FIR filed but crucial details missing
Ashfaq Hussain was married on February 14, Valentine’s Day. His house on street number 15 in Mustafabad was still festooned with decorations when his body came home 11 days later.
The 22-year-old electrician was shot dead on February 25.
Around 2 pm that day, Hussain’s older brother Muddasar Abbas said he got a phone call from a friend who told him violence had erupted in Brijpuri. A Hindu-majority area, Brijpuri lies on the other side of a reeking canal from Mustafabad, which is home mostly to Muslims. Abbas rushed to the spot since he knew that his brother had gone to Brijpuri for work.
On the Brijpuri bridge that runs over the canal, Abbas claims he saw a large number of Hindus and Muslims gathered there pelting stones at each other. This is a stretch where the rioting was so intense that a mosque, a madrassa, a high school and a protest site were later vandalised or burnt down by mobs.
Abbas claims he spotted his brother in the crowd. Suddenly, men in uniform opened fire from the Brijpuri side. “I could see that my brother was hit with bullets,” he told Scroll.in in an interview on March 9.
With the violence escalating, Abbas rushed back home to tell his father what he had seen. The father and son later went back to the spot but could not find Ashfaq. The family later found out that residents of the area had first rushed an injured Ashfaq to the Al Hind Hospital in Mustafabad and then to Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital. He was declared dead on arrival.
What the family was unaware of on Monday, however, was the fact that the FIR, a copy of which the police had given them, did not carry crucial details recounted by Abbas in his written complaint.
On February 27, two days after his brother’s death, Abbas had submitted a complaint at the Dayalpur police station to the assistant sub-inspector Hemraj Raj Singh. In the handwritten statement, he had clearly explained what he had witnessed on February 25, including the fact that men in uniform had fired bullets at his brother.
None of these details feature in the FIR, which was filed on February 28, with a curious note stating that the case diary had been prepared on February 26 but could not be keyed into the system until February 28 because the “computer hanged”. Registered on the complaint of Hemraj Raj Singh, the police officer who had received Abbas’s complaint, the FIR clubbed Ashfaq Hussain’s death with three other men found unconscious on the same spot: Mehtab Munna Khan, 22, a resident of Brijpuri; Zakir, 24, a resident of Mustafabad and an unknown man aged about 25-30. All four men were declared dead on arrival at GTB hospital, the FIR noted. The FIR does not offer any explanation for their deaths, other than the fact that they were killed in communal violence.
Scroll.in visited Dayalpur police station but Hemraj Raj Singh was not available. He did not respond to phone calls.
The FIR does not provide details on whether the bodies of the four men were sent for postmortem, which is a requirement for any unnatural death. Abbas said the family had neither received a copy of his brother’s postmortem report nor the medico-legal certificate sent by the hospital to the police.
On Monday, the office of the deputy commissioner of police called the family and asked them to fill a form that would allow the government to provide employment to a member of the family as compensation for Hussain’s death. None of the other families interviewed by Scroll.in had been offered similar compensation. It is unclear what had prompted the police to offer such compensation to Hussain’s family while suppressing his brother’s complaint. The family wants a proper investigation into Hussain’s death.
“My brother was to lead a happy married life,” Abbas said, with his father seated next to him. “Everything has been gutted.”
Mohammed Hamza: Police acts after court intervenes
On the evening of February 26, Mohammed Arif, a resident of Mustafabad, combed through local mosques in search of his brother-in-law, 25-year-old Mohammed Hamza.
Earlier that day, Hamza had ventured out of the house to buy groceries. Hours later, when he did not return home, the family frantically called him on his mobile phone, but it was switched off. This panicked the family, which feared the worst but was hopeful of his return.
When he did not return the next day, the family submitted a missing persons complaint to the Dayalpur police station, said Arif. The police, however, refused to register a FIR, which is considered a necessary step to probe complaints about missing people. The family made another round of the police station on February 28, said Arif, and even visited the Gokalpuri police station, but policemen in both the places refused to file an FIR.
On February 29, Arif said the Dayalpur police rejected their complaint but filed an in-house FIR. “This was when we decided to file a habeas corpus [petition] on March 1,” Arif recalled. A habeas corpus petition calls upon the authorities to locate the whereabouts of a person and produce them before the court.
Responding to the habeas corpus petition filed by Hamza’s family, on March 5, the Delhi High Court censured the police and sought files relating to the case. The same evening, the police took the family to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where three unclaimed bodies were lying in the mortuary.
“They told us the bodies were recovered from a drain,” Arif said.
At first, he was shown photos of the bodies, from which he was unable to recognise his brother-in-law. The police then took him to the mortuary. “I had to identify the body from the clothes. I couldn’t recognise his face,” Arif recalled, his voice choking.
Hamza’s case prompted the Delhi High Court to direct the police to videograph all autopsies related to the communal violence and preserve DNA samples.
Arif is aghast at the way the police ignored the family’s complaint – till the court intervened.
“Imagine what would have been our state to not know the whereabouts of a family member when there were riots outside. And this continued for ten days,” he said.
The family is yet to get a copy of the postmortem report.
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