Muzaffarnagar: Students of the Sadat madrasa, who were picked up by police after an anti-CAA protest on 20 December, have returned with bruises and fractured bones, alleging severe police brutality.
The madrasa-cum-hostel on the city’s Arya Samaj Road is run by the 72-year-old Maulana Asad Raza Hussaini, and takes care of nearly 100 students between 15 and 20 years of age, many of whom are orphans. Hussaini, a prominent Shia cleric in the region, was conferred the Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman by Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu in August 2019. This is an honour given to scholars for promoting various languages, and in Hussaini’s case, it was for increasing the reach of the Arabic language.
But on 20 December, at least 20 policemen forced their way into the madrasa, looking for alleged ‘rioters’ who were part of the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protest that took place after the Friday prayers.
The police alleged that protesters took shelter in the madrasa, and detained Hussaini and at least 35 madrasa students.
Abhishek Yadav, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Muzaffarnagar, told ThePrint: “A mob of protesters had entered the hostel on the day of the protest. When we went to catch hold of them, we ended up detaining some students as well.”
He added that the students have now been released.
“As soon as we were informed that they were madrasa students, we released 28 of them that very night along with the maulana (Hussaini). Four more (students) were released later,” the SSP said.
The madrasa management and Hussaini’s family claim some students are still in police custody.
“If we are informed of more students in police custody, we will release them too, if they are innocent,” Yadav said.
Beaten ‘black and blue’, refused water
Irfan Haider, 21, who hails from Sitapur, was one of the students detained by the police and let off Saturday at around 11 pm. He returned with a fractured right leg and a broken left arm, and now has to use a wheelchair. “They were ruthless. They beat us relentlessly.” he alleged.
There were reports quoting Muzaffarnagar Congress leader Salman Saeed as saying that some madrasa students “suffered rectal bleeding from the police torture”. But Haider and the other students told ThePrint that this wasn’t true.
“This isn’t true. Neither the children nor maulana sahab suffered rectal bleeding. They were beaten brutally, which in itself was a horrible experience. We don’t need to make up any allegations,” Naved Alam, a relative and confidante of Hussaini, said.
Another relative, Mohammad Azam, said: “We have to show our faces to God after all. So there’s no point in lying. What happened was a big deal in itself.”
But when ThePrint contacted Saeed, son of former Congress MP Saiduzzaman Saeed, he stuck to his position. “Everyone is too scared to talk right now,” he claimed.
On the allegations of rectal bleeding, SSP Yadav said the report was based on “one person’s quote, who has political affiliations”.
But asked to explain the children’s bruises, Yadav said: “No student was beaten in police custody. The injuries took place only when the protesters started hiding behind the students and used students as cover at the madrasa.”
The students, though, insisted that they were beaten with batons while in police custody.
Some students even claimed that the police denied them water. “They refused to give us water and said that if we are so thirsty, we should drink their urine,” a student, who didn’t want to be named, said.
Another relative of Hussaini, on the condition of anonymity, said: “We have to give an answer to several families who have trusted us with their children.”
‘I have prayers on my side’
Hussaini, who has a fractured arm and injured legs and is bed-ridden, was “in a pool of blood when we saw him coming out of police custody Friday night”, said the unnamed relative quoted above.
A patient of diabetes, Hussaini’s blood sugar level shot up after the detention and isn’t going back to normal. “All of this has taken a huge mental toll on him. He is such a respectable figure, who has done so much work for children. This is really humiliating for him,” another relative added.
The maulana, looking extremely frail, refused to give a detailed comment, but said he has many prayers on his side. “The prayers will defeat the zulm (cruelty),” he said.
Madrasa in broken state
The madrasa-cum-hostel is now in bad shape — smashed cars, broken CCTV cameras and shattered classroom windows. The place is laden with pieces of glass.
But for the caretakers of the madrasa, the most painful reminder of what had happened on Friday is a broken wall clock stuck at 4.10 pm.
“This is how we remember the mayhem caused when they (police) barged into our hostel that day. We will never be able to forget that day,” said Khurram Ali, joint secretary of Sadat hostel.
The now-broken wall clock once adorned the room of the madrasa’s primary caretaker, Qazim Hasnain.
Lovingly referred to as munshi ji by the people at the madrasa, the 60-year-old Hasnain too became a victim of the violence on 20 December.
“The police beat me with sticks, on my arms, legs, back. They didn’t spare me even as I kept telling them I just manage the finances of the madrasa,” Hasnain said, showing his bruises.
‘Police kept calling me a haraamzaada’
Other parts of Muzaffarnagar also saw alleged police action, with several houses vandalised to a point of no recognition.
Just a couple of kilometres away from Hussaini’s Sadat madrasa is the home of another Arabic scholar and tutor, 50-year-old Mohammad Asad.
Asad is still perplexed over his detention by the police that Friday, which he says resulted in a broken arm and several bruises on other body parts. Asad said he had never been subjected to such brutality.
“Pachaas saal mein aisa zulm nahi dekha (Never seen such cruelty in the last 50 years),” he said, adding that the police kept asking him if he wanted “azaadi” (freedom).
“The police said I should go to Pakistan, and kept calling me a haraamzaada,” he alleged.
Besides the madrasa students, there were others in the same age group who were also detained by the police.
Aamir Suleiman, a 15-year-old who works at a cycle repair shop, can’t see out of one eye, and also limps due to a childhood disease. But all his appeals to the police to see how his deformity couldn’t have allowed him to participate in the protest went in vain.
“I kept telling them I am physically challenged. But they wouldn’t listen. They put me in a police van and started beating me up non-stop,” Suleiman said, sitting in the district hospital to change the bandage on his fractured hand.
Suleiman was on his way to his cycle shop when the police stopped him at Meenakshi Chowk, where most of the violence broke out.
“Anyone who was seen at Meenakshi Chowk that day was arrested. No one was spared,” a resident who did not wish to be identified.