New Delhi: Mohammed Samaydeen spent nearly a month in different hospitals, battling for his life. The doctors were unsure about whether or not he would survive.
On June 18, Samaydeen and Mohammed Qasim were brutally assaulted by a violent mob with lathis, wooden planks, bats and stones in Bajhera village of western Uttar Pradesh’s Hapur district. Qasim died due to the severity of his injuries while Samaydeen survived – barely. Now, for the first time since the assault, Samaydeen has spoken publicly. His version of events, and that of his family members and friends, raises some serious questions about the conduct of the police on the day of the incident and points to an attempted cover up.
“They (the police) haven’t even come to speak to me yet. They never asked me what happened. People have been let out on bail. I can recognise the people who attacked me. But nobody ever asked me all this while,” said Samaydeen, both his arms covered by plasters, and one leg in a cast, in addition to several bandages and stitches all over his body. He still needs support even to move in his chair, and can only manage to take a few ginger steps aided by at least two people who have to be careful about where they hold him from, given all the injuries across his body.
“The UP police has failed to record Samaydeen’s statement. He is the survivor of that lynching and an eyewitness. The police knew where he was. But never bothered to record his statement,” said Vrinda Grover, a Supreme Court lawyer who will now lend legal support to Samaydeen.
According to Samaydeen, at around 11:30 am on June 18, he was sitting on his farm in Bhajera when he saw a mob attack Qasim, whom he knew reasonably well. “It was a mob of around 15-20 people. They were beating him up badly not far from where I was sitting,” Samaydeen recalled as he winced in pain. “The ribs are what hurt the most. It cant even be bandaged.”
After his brother Yasin helped him drink a few sips of tea, Samaydeen continued, “When I saw them beating him up, I asked them ‘What is the matter? Why are you beating him?’ They said ‘We will teach you also a lesson’ and started beating me as well. They said that both Qasim and I slaughter cows.”
More people from the village joined the mob and it swelled to around 40, according to Samaydeen. No one from the village tried to stop the violence. Samaydeen said that he tried to reason with the mob, explaining that there is no cow in the field nor is there any knife to slaughter a cow with. “But they simply did not listen to me. They kept saying that you people slaughter cows. They kept dragging me and beating me with their hands, their feet, with lathis, tree twigs and stones,” he said.
He started bleeding profusely from his head and ankle, he remembers. “All parts were aching. But the head and ankle hurt the most, for some reason. I could see blood dripping from my head. They started dragging us along the floor.”
Qasim was being dragged right behind Samaydeen. “I could see him being dragged. People would take turns at beating us. They would beat him for a few minutes and then turn to me.”
Qasim and Samaydeen were dragged for around a kilometre. Two people from the mob held each from under their armpits, with their legs on the floor being dragged against stones, rubble and concrete. The rest of the mob continued to assault them. “My knees and shins would hit stones and I felt severe pain. As we were dragged through the village, everyone joined in and beat us,” Samaydeen said.
Samaydeen was taken to the Devi temple in Bajhera village and left outside. “They left me outside in the sun. I began to lose consciousness. But I could still feel that some people were kicking and punching me. I could only hear and see people if they were really close to me. Otherwise I did not know what was happening.”
Samaydeen remembers being pushed into a police van mercilessly by police officials and being taken around town to a number of hospitals, most of whom refused to admit him. “At one of the hospitals I heard that Qasim had passed away. And that they were unsure about whether I would survive.”
Samaydeen’s brother Yasin learnt that his brother had been injured grievously at around 12 pm, when he got a call from a neighbour. “I was told that Samaydeen is injured badly and that he has been taken to the police station. I immediately went to the police station. They told me to go to Saraswati hospital,” Yasin told The Wire.
Then Yasin was given the runaround. For the next 4-5 hours, he went from hospital to hospital in Hapur district looking for his brother. He could find traces, but not Samaydeen. “I was told that he was brought to this hospital but then taken to another. They didn’t know which one. They also said he might not survive,” said Yasin.
Exasperated, Yasin went back to the police station at around 5 pm. “I pleaded with them to tell me where my brother was. Pawan Kumar, circle officer of Pilkhuwa police station, told me first sign a FIR saying that this is a case of road rage, otherwise he said our entire family will be put behind bars for cow slaughter.”
“I had no choice. I was scared. Plus they were not even telling my where my brother was. They said they will only tell me if I sign the report. So I signed it, even though I knew that it is not true,” Yasin said.
Since Yasin could not write, the police got Dinesh Tomar, a friend of Samaydeen’s family’s, to write the complaint. When Tomar reached the police station upon hearing that Samaydeen had been assaulted, Pawan Kumar told him that this is a case of cow slaughter. “He said that a cow has been found from the spot. These people were slaughtering cows. Then, he said you change it to road rage otherwise you know who is in power and all of you will go to jail. His family will go to jail and you could also. He said it is in your interest that you change it to a road rage case,” said Tomar.
Tomar alleged that Kumar told him if he did not write the complaint as he dictated, Samaydeen and his family will go to jail on charges of cow slaughter. “I had no choice at the time. I had to write what he dictated even when I knew it wasn’t true,” Tomar said.
Yasin explained that he could only speak out now as him and his family were being kept under close watch by the Uttar Pradesh police. “The police was following us everywhere. When we were in hospital in Hapur or at home. Even to come to Delhi, I had to trick them so that they don’t follow us. That’s how we got Samaydeen to a Delhi hospital where he was treated properly, and we are now finally able to speak out,” said Yasin.
Samaydeen, Yasin and Tomar’s statements have been sent to the inspector general (IG) of police Meerut zone (in which Hapur is located), superintendent of police (SP) of Hapur and additional SP of Hapur. They now seek action against Pawan Kumar, the circle officer at Pilkhuwa, among others for ‘threatening them and making them write a false, baseless and fake complaint’.
The Wire tried to call Ram Kumar, IG of Meerut Zone several times, and sent a number of text and WhatsApp messages, but got no response. Similarly, Sankalp Sharma, SP Hapur, and Ram Mohan Singh, additional SP Hapur, have not responded. This story will be updated if and when they do respond.
We were able to speak to Pawan Kumar, who has denied the allegations levelled against. He called Samaydeen, Yasin and Tomar ‘liars’. “They are all lying. I have nothing to do with the FIR. They came with the complaint. They came with the motor bike story,” Kumar said.
Kumar has also challenged Samaydeen’s claim that his statement is yet to be taken. “We have taken his statement. And even he has spoken about the motor bike incident. I have recordings,” he said.
When we asked Kumar to share the recordings with us, he refused. “I cannot do that. It is a part of an investigation.”
Vrinda Grover has rubbished Kumar’s claims. “In a case of this nature, it would be in the interest of a proper investigation that a statement of an eyewitness and a lynching survivor is recorded under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in front of a judicial magistrate. That has not happened. Why are they shying away from recording his statement in front of a judicial magistrate?” Grover asked.
“What the police scribbles in the case diary is their prerogative. Now, we have sent the three statements to the IG of Meerut zone and Samaydeen’s statement saying that the police is yet to take his statement is a matter of record,” added Grover.
On behalf of Samaydeen, Grover will approach the Supreme Court seeking an ‘impartial investigation into the incident’ and asking for protection for Samaydeen and his family.
Earlier, in June, the UP police was forced to apologise when a photograph emerged showing policemen escort a mob as it mercilessly dragged Qasim, holding him by his arms. The policemen appeared to be clearing the way for the mob.