Since the Yogi govt began its ‘encounter drive’, Muzaffarnagar has seen seven killings. In all cases, every accomplice of those killed escaped through sugarcane fields.
Muzaffarnagar: Seven encounters in six months, seven FIRs with the same narrative: Two gangsters on their way to commit a “barbaric crime” on a bike or in a car; a chase that leads to sugarcane fields; the bike skids or the car stops, the gangsters attack the police; they fire back and kill one gangster; the others take advantage of the dark and escape through the fields.
The stories in Muzaffarnagar are eerily similar to those in neighbouring Shamli district and the rest of Uttar Pradesh – alleged gangsters are killed in encounters in deserted areas late at night or in the wee hours; similar .32 and .315 bore pistols are recovered from them.
ThePrint’s investigation into the ‘encounter drive’ launched by the Yogi Adityanath government has brought out details that raise suspicions against the police version — there are unexplained injuries to the “gangsters” such as fractured rib cages, spinal injuries or close-range bullet wounds.
Most families allege that the men killed were tortured in custody before being shot in “fake encounters”. In none of these cases was the National Human Rights Commission informed as mandated by the Supreme Court. And in most cases, their families were not even provided a copy of the FIR or the post-mortem report.
However, despite these inconsistencies and allegations, the magistrate inquiries into five of seven cases have been closed, calling them “satisfactory” probes with “no suspicion”.
Locals allege political rivalry behind killing of SP-linked man
Name: Nitin (30)
Time and place of death: 5 am, Nangla Khepad, Muzaffarnagar
Date: 16 August 2017
Cases against him: 14 — nine cases of robbery, two of attempt to murder, one each under Arms Act and Gunda Act. Bounty of Rs 50,000 on his head.
Injuries: Three bullet wounds next to the heart and one on the forehead, injuries on his back and shoulder, marks on the neck.
An unidentified person called the police claiming a threat to his life from Nitin and his associates, and asked for protection. The usual practice is to assign two guards after taking the permission of the court, but in this case, a police team went to the complainant’s house to “secure the area” and put up pickets. Soon, Nitin and an associate approached Nangla Khepad on a Bajaj Pulsar bike.
When the complainant identified Nitin, the police asked him to stop. But according to the FIR, the moment they saw the police, Nitin and his associate turned to flee. While they were being chased, their bike skid and fell, but they continued to run, and opened fire at the police party. Two policemen were hit, but were saved by bullet-proof jackets.
Nitin was shot down in retaliatory firing by the police, but his associate managed to escape in the sugarcane fields. The police recovered the usual .32 pistol and a .315 pistol from Nitin’s possession.
However, locals say Nitin was killed due to his political affiliation to the Samajwadi Party. The person who complained against him was allegedly from the BJP. Police, however, said that he was the sharp-shooter of the Sushil Moonch gang, which reportedly thrived under the SP regime in the state.
Nitin’s cousin Amit asked: “He did not have a single case of murder against him. Was he such a big gangster who deserved to get killed on mere suspicion that he was going to kill someone?”
To which the area station house officer (SHO) responded: “He was a sharp shooter, a dreaded gangster who recently shot at two women who were to testify against him in the court. When we went to arrest him, he started firing indiscriminately; we had no choice but to open fire.”
Bail was agreed after arrest, but ‘gangster’ escaped and was shot down
Name: Nadeem (30)
Time and place of death: 8.25 pm, Jatwada
Date: 8 September 2017
Cases against him: 19 — three cases of murder, the rest of attempted murder, robbery, extortion, Arms Act violations and kidnapping. Reward of Rs 15,000 on his head.
Injuries: Two bullet injuries measuring 1.5 x 2 cm, abrasions on the face and forehead.
On 6 September, Nadeem was arrested in a case of theft and taken to the Nayi Mandi police station in Muzaffarnagar city. He, however, escaped before he could be produced in court, throwing chilli powder into the eyes of the policemen on duty. Two days later, he was killed.
The case file claims that Nadeem, along with an associate, was on his way to commit a robbery on a black Bajaj Pulsar bike when he was intercepted and opened fire at the police. In this case too, while Nadeem was shot dead, the associate managed to escape in the sugarcane fields. A .32 bore pistol was found on him.
However, Samreen, Nadeem’s step mother, alleged that Nadeem was first arrested, tortured at Kakroli police station, and then gunned down. “His teeth were broken, face was swollen. He also had fractures. How did he get so many injuries,” she asked.
Samreen added: “I went and met him at the police station myself on 6 September. He told me he had been beaten up and also feared that he might get killed.
“I quickly arranged for the bail papers after borrowing money and told him that I will get him out. Why would he run away when he was getting bail? I was getting the bond ready when the message came that had been shot dead.”
However, the area SHO said: “Nadeem was a notorious robber. Even if he was acquitted in a few cases, there were many cases that were pending. He fled from custody throwing chilli powder at policemen because he had to go for a loot.”
Samreen said Nadeem had recently started working at a cloth factory in Dehradun, and soon planned to go to Saudi Arabia. “He wished to go away from here. He was acquitted in many of the cases against him, and he also promised he wouldn’t indulge in any of these activities as he wanted to settle down in Saudi, and to go abroad one needs a clean criminal record,” she said.
In jail for 7 years, shot dead two weeks after his release
Name: Furquan (30)
Time and place of death: 10 pm, Murgi Farm
Date: 22 October 2017
Cases against him: 22 — one case of murder, the rest of theft, dacoity, burglary. Reward of Rs 50,000 on his head.
Injuries: Three bullet wounds on the chest and head, injuries to his back and spinal cord, laceration marks on the neck.
Furquan had just returned home after being in jail for seven years. On 22 October, he got a call that his brother had been admitted to a hospital in Baghpat. He told his wife Nasreen that he would visit him and return home the same night. Before leaving, he went to the market to buy some apples and a few hours later, Nasreen got a call informing her about the encounter.
According to the FIR, Furquan was on his way to Meerut with four of his accomplices, to carry out a dacoity. The police received information that they would the cross Murgi Farm area on two bikes, following which a picket was placed. When the police saw the bikes, they shone torches on the riders and asked them to stop, but they turned around and sped. When they were asked to surrender, the men opened fire at the police party. The police too fired in retaliation and the bullets hit Furquan. While he died, the other four managed to escape. Two policemen too were injured, and one bullet was stopped by a constable’s bullet proof jacket. In this case too, the police recovered a .32 bore pistol and .315 bore pistol from Furquan’s possession.
Nasreen, however, said: “He had just stepped out to buy apples. Why would he suddenly leave for a dacoity? If he was shot at while trying to flee, how did he get multiple fractures? How did he sustain injuries on his spinal cord, his head? He was clearly thrashed. I could see the marks on his face: they had not been there that morning.
“He just came out of jail; the police registered so many cases against him while he was inside. Why is no one taking a note of that? Even if he was a criminal, is it right to kill someone? They could have arrested him again.”
Locals told ThePrint that Furquan was on the police’s agenda for a long time, due to his involvement in a case where he allegedly forced many Hindu families in nearby Shamli to leave their village.
“He was one of the most dreaded gangsters. He would extort money from traders, carry out loot. People could not move around at night, but now, after his death, they are very happy,” a police officer who was in the team that carried out the encounter said on the condition of anonymity.
“He had political backing, so no one could touch him earlier. But now with this government’s zero tolerance policy against such criminals, things have changed,” he added.
Encounter took place at around 11 pm, wristwatch shows 7 o’clock in dead man’s police photo
Name: Shamim (30)
Time and place of death: 10.50 pm, Khatauli
Date: 30 December 2017
Cases against him: 23 — Attempt to murder, theft, burglary, Arms Act violations. Bounty of Rs 50,000 on his head.
Injuries: Bullet injury on the forehead measuring 4 x 3 cm, bullet wound on the temple measuring 1.5 x 1 cm, 13 severe injuries including lacerations on the neck.
While police records say Shamim was gunned down at 10:50 pm, his wristwatch, in the photograph of his body shot after the encounter, shows 7 o’clock.
There were several injury marks on his face and neck; he also sustained severe head and scalp injuries. The post-mortem report says Shamim was shot in the temple and in the middle of the forehead, possibly from a close range. The entry wound of the bullet in the temple measures 1.5 x 1 cm and the external wounds measure 2 x 1.5 cm.
Shamim was in a Maruti Swift car with an accomplice when he was stopped at a picket in Bhalwa village, says the FIR. The moment he was signalled to stop, his accomplice shouted “Goli chala Shamim! Police hai” (Fire, Shamim! It’s the police) and he opened indiscriminate fire. As they turned their car around, a police team started following them.
The car went into a sugarcane field, where Shamim got down from the car to fire at the police party. He tried to roll down the window first, but could not. The police then opened fire and Shamim died, while his associate fled towards the sugarcane field.
Shamim’s father Faqruddin, however, countered this version, saying: “If he was in a car and he had policemen after him, why would he try to get down? Just to get killed? This is a trap.
“They later took him to the field and shot him in the forehead. If he was trying to run, he would get bullet injuries either in his legs or back, that too from a distance, not a close range injury like this one.”
He couldn’t have got to the location of the encounter in an hour and a half
Name: Inderpal Singh (35)
Time and place of death: 1.03 am, Jansath
Date: 2 February 2018
Cases against him: 33 — Four of murder; the rest, attempt to murder, kidnapping and extortion. Reward of Rs 25,000 on his head.
Injuries: One bullet wound in the forehead
According to the case file, the police received a tip off that Singh would cross Jansath along with five of his accomplices to commit a planned murder. They set up a picket, and on seeing this, the men, who were in a car, opened fire. Bullet-proof jackets once again saved the policemen, but when they fired in retaliation, one of the bullets hit Singh’s forehead, while his accomplices fled.
Singh’s lawyer Rajni Sharma, however, said he had had dengue for the previous two months, and was in Haridwar. On 2 February, he was on his way to Saharanpur from a relative’s house at Hingwara in Bulandshahr, with Rs 20,000 in cash, to surrender in a case of dacoity.
There are call detail records to suggest that Singh was in Bulandshahr at 11.30 pm. Just an hour and a half later, the police showed his encounter in Jansath, which is about 100 km away and takes around three hours of travelling time to reach.
Sharma claimed: “He was picked up from Bulandshahr itself and then gunned down. The police then fudged the records and showed an encounter in Muzaffarnagar. The police did not allow a post mortem until 5 pm the next day. It is only after Singh’s parents went to the morgue and insisted on a post-mortem that a doctor was called,” she added
Promised to return with rations for ailing father but didn’t
Name: Vikas (25)
Time and place of death: 9 pm, Jolly-Ganganahar bridge, Dhandeda, Muzaffarnagar
Date: 6 February 2018
Cases against him: 6 — two cases of murder, the rest of culpable homicide, unlawful assembly, concealment of stolen property, attempt to murder. Reward of Rs 50,000 on his head.
Injuries: Three bullet wounds, spinal cord injuries, facial abrasions.
A frail man lying on a rickety cot, dressed in a soiled kurta pyjama; his sunken eyes and pale face testifying that he has not eaten in days. There is no water at home to soothe his cough, and no one to take care of him.
Until early this month, Inder Pal’s only son Vikas would arrange meals and medicines for him. On 4 February, he left home promising to return with a month’s rations. But before he could do that, he was killed in an encounter.
“Look at the condition of this house. There is nothing to eat, no utensils, no furniture. If he was that big a gangster, would he not get at least something back home to feed his father? Two nights ago, the only pot of water I had also got over.”
According to the case file, an informer tipped off the police that Vikas would cross Jolly Road on a black Bajaj Pulsar, following which, a check post was put up at Dhandeda village. When the men turned around and sped, their bike slipped on sand and they started running, and then firing at the police party. The police too fired in retaliation and the bullet hit Vikas. He died and his accomplice fled through the sugarcane fields. A .32 bore pistol was recovered along with live cartridges.
Vikas had told his father that he would soon take him to Uttarakhand, where he had found a job in a factory. “No one came from the police station; the neighbours told me that my son had been shot dead. I was sent from one hospital to the other before I found Vikas. They did not even care to give me his post-mortem report,” he said.
(With inputs from Divya Narayanan)
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