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PUCL, May 2007

Custody death of Hafiz Kamaluddin and subsequent atrocities by police in Delhi, Sultanpuri

A PUCL Report

It was reported in the media on 24th April, 2007 that a man named Hafiz Kamaluddin had died in the early hours of the day in police custody under the Police Post of Prem Nagar, in the jurisdiction of the Sultanpuri Police Station, north-west district of Delhi. Subsequent to the death people of the area alleged that it was a custody death. They gathered in a large number shouted slogans against the police. Some people were also alleged to have damaged and burnt some vehicles standing outside the police post. As per the police version given to the media the deceased was of an unsound mind and that he had a quarrel with a cycle rickshaw puller, in the night in which both were injured and that some people had beaten the Hafiz with due to which he died.

Subsequent to the alleged custody death, the police rounded up about 34 people , all but two from a particular community, took them to the police station, abused, humiliated and beat them up. Police later slapped charges against the detained people who were later released by the court pending trial.

PUCL general Secretary Dr. Y P Chhibber constituted three member fact finding committee to investigate the incident of the alleged custody death and subsequent police brutality against the police and prepare a report on it. The committee included Dr. Pushkar Raj, secretary national PUCL Sh. Mahipal Singh, general secretary PUCL- Delhi and and Sh. Bhupender Rawat, Covennor, Jan Sangharsh Vahini.

Following is the report submitted by the committee.
The Person Hafiz Kamaluddin was a man of forty with a wife and two years old daughter. He lived in Prem Nagar locality, a very densely populated area with unpaved streets and lacking in civil amenities. He has a two room flat to himself in which lived his brother in law too with his wife and child. About two hundred meters from his home is a under construction mosque that covers about two thousand square feet of area adjoining to it is a tin roofed narrow lane six by twenty feet covered space that is named Noorani Madarsa Talimulkoran, a madrasa where about twenty children mainly from poor families of rural Bihar are living and studding. It is their hostel as well as school. Hafiz Kamaluddin took care of these children and taught them in this madrasa.

The incident
On the morning of 24 April 2007 a police constable informed the brother in law of Hafiz Kamuluddin that he is admitted in the Sanjay Gandhi. He gave no further details. The call was to inform about the person who was injured and in the hospital. The relatives, including his wife and brother in law reached the hospital. In the hospital after a considerable wait they were told that Maulana Hafiz was dead.

Police Version Police said that the madrasa teacher was of unsound mind. At about 3 o’clock in the morning he had a quarrel with a rickshaw puller. Both beat each other. Seeing the quarrel some people gathered and taking side of rickshaw puller beat Hafiz badly injuring him seriously. The police took him and the rickshaw puller to the hospital. Here owing to injuries, Hafiz died. In the FIR. Initially on inquiry police said that Rickshaw puller’s name was Rajender. On our request to see the injured rickshaw puller Rajender in the same hospital where Hafiz had been taken, police showed its inability to do so.

Speaking to the media, subsequent to the protest by a large number of the people of the area, District Commissioner of Police (DCP) Manish Aggarwal said that the diseased was a mentally disturbed person who was beating people and the mob in turn thrashed him and he died.

PUCL asked for the FIR no 647 dated 24 April 2007 that was registered in connection with the quarrel between the rickshaw puller Rajender and the diseased. The station house officer (SHO) refused citing the rule that it could be given to the one who was the victim or one who had filed it. When it was pointed out that please let us know the victim so that we could at least speak to him, police officer had no answer.

However PUCL could get the copy of the FIR from the court.

The FIR No. 647 dated 24 April 2007 , timed 3:55 morning mentions that the head constable Rakesh, Dalvir, Ashok Kumar reached the spot subsequent to a call by the PCR that a mad person had stuck the head of a rickshaw puller at Mubarakpur, seventy feet road. They saw that the unknown rickshaw puller was bleeding from head and face. There was a paagal (mad) man who was absolutely naked. People told the police men that this mad man was stoning the unknown rickshaw puller and in turn the people stoned this mad man. The FIR further says that no one came forward to record his statement on the matter. The concerned policemen took both the mad man and the injured to the police where the doctor under MLC 6274 declared the mad man dead. Constable Ashok Kumar was told to stay in hospital to look after the unknown rickshaw puller. In the end the FIR records an offense under section 304 of IPC against unknown persons.

Hafiz Kamaluddin’s wife, Mubarak’s statement
On the evening of 23rd April, 2007 my husband went out for a stroll as usual after his dinner. When he did not return till about 1.00 a.m. after mid-night, I requested my brothers, Amzad and Wazid to search for him. They took their motor cycle and went in search for him. At about 3.00 a.m. they returned without his trace. At 6.00 a.m. on 24th April we received a phone call from the local police post at Prem Nagar which was attended by my brother Amzad. He was told that my husband was in the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital and he had been sent there along with a constable named Rakesh. On hearing this I immediately took a cycle-rickshaw and reached the hospital at 8.30 a.m. There I searched for my husband but I did not find him anywhere. On making enquiries from various people present there, I was told that they had seen a ‘Mullaji’ (a Muslim religious preacher) outside the hospital accompanied by several policemen. The Mullaji’s arms and legs were tied and he was crying for water. But the policemen did not give him any water. Nobody else too had the courage to offer water to the man in the presence of the policemen. The man, the people said, had perhaps died during the beating by the policemen.

Thereafter I continued my search for him. During that time, a man was brought out of the hospital on a stretcher. He was covered with a sheet of cloth and some policemen were accompanying him. I made enquiries from a policeman about the person on the stretcher. He told me that on the stretcher was a sick man whom they were carrying elsewhere for treatment. Soon some more people came out of the hospital and they told me that on the stretcher was Mullaji’s dead body. Some policemen had already carried the body away from the hospital. I again asked the policeman who had told me earlier that it was a sick man. Then he told me that on the stretcher she had seen was indeed Mullaji’s body. I was also told that he had a quarrel with somebody who had also been injured. Then I asked him about the whereabouts of that person but he failed to give me any details about that man to me. He also did not tell me where the dead body of my husband had been taken. In the meantime my brothers also reached there and I told them the whole story.

On hearing about Hafiz sahib’s death a lot of people gathered at the hospital and the police chased them away with lathis (wooden baton) and I, along with my daughter, my brother Amzad and his younger son were taken into police custody and we were kept under police custody until after Hafiz sahib was buried at Mangolpuri funeral ground.

Statement of Amzad, the brother-in-law of Hafiz Kamaluddin
On 23rd April, 2007 my brother-in-law Hafiz Kamaluddin went out for a stroll after his dinner as he usually did everyday. When he did not return home till 1.00 after midnight, my sister Mubarak asked me to find out and I along with my brother Wazid went in search of him on the motorcycle and searched for him on the roads and in the mosques. The mosques were closed. We came back at about 3.00 a.m. and thought that he might have gone to sleep at the madras, that was closed. After that we also went to sleep. At six in the morning, we received a phone call and the caller asked me about my brother Wazid. I told him my name. Then the caller told me that he was calling from the Police Post and that our man was in the custody of the police. I told him that I was coming to the Police Post at which he told me that I should not come to the Police Post. The man had given a lot of trouble to the police at the police post during the night and he had been taken to the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital by the constable named Rakesh.

I told this to my sister and brothers and also rang up people who knew Hafiz sahib. We sent our sister to the hospital on a cycle rickshaw and I also followed her along with some people. My sister reached there before me. I found my sister weeping and when I enquired about the reason she told me that when she was searching for her husband, some policemen carried his dead body covered with a sheet of cloth on a stretcher and on enquiry a policeman, who was still standing there, had told her that it was a sick man whom they were carrying for treatment. She also told me that if she knew that it was the body of Hafiz sahib, she would not have allowed the police to carry away his body at any cost. I also asked Rakesh, the policeman, what had happened and he told me that Hafiz sahib had beaten a man at around 4.00 a.m. and that man was also in a critical condition and about to die. He also told me that they had not kept Hafiz sahib in police custody and had taken him directly to the hospital.

People present in the hospital told us that just outside the hospital Mullaji was lying on the ground with his legs and hands tied and the police was present there. The man was asking for water but he was not given any water by the policemen. Nobody else too gave him water. The policemen were beating him with their feet and he died because of the beating by the policemen.

When the police started taking people gathered there into their custody, I along with my sister and children entered the van of Sahara TV Channel but the police pulled us out and took us into their custody. I, along with my sister, her daughter and my son were kept in police custody until after the burial of Hafiz sahib

There is a question in my mind and I have asked this question publicly. Hundreds of people came to the hospital on hearing about the death of Hafiz sahib but the person with whom Hafiz sahib is alleged to have quarreled is neither in the hospital nor did anybody come there to visit him. I have no doubt that my brother-in-law has been killed by the police.

Vinod Sharma’s statement who was present in the hospital

Vinod Sharma’s wife was admitted in the hospital and he was with her there. He said that when he came down to take water, he saw a Mullaji lying there with tied hands and feet outside the emergency section gate. He was asking for water and the policemen standing there were not listening to him. There was also blood lying on the ground near him. It was around 2.30 a.m. at that time. He took water and went up. When became down in the morning he came to know that the Mullaji who was lying there with tied hands and feet, had died.

Statement of 67 years old Irfan Ulla Khan, brutally beaten by police (Named in the FIR at Sr. No. 18)
I heard that an Alimudin had been killed by the police. I reached the office of the Municipal Councilor of the area, Mr. Anil. There were already some people, including Mr. Anil and the MLA of the area. As more people started coming there, Mr. Anil suggested that a committee should be formed to talk to the police regarding the case. In the committee apart from the Municipal Councilor and the MLA ten people, including myself, were kept. After that a police van came there and the committee members were taken to the police station. The Municipal Councilor and the MLA also accompanied in their own cars. After waiting in the police station, the ACP and the DCP came there and the committee started discussion with them.

Mr. Dulare, one of the members of the committee, suggested that since the Hafiz had been killed, a case should be registered under section 302. Ikram bhai suggested that something should be done for the wife and daughter of the deceased. I suggested that as there were many complaints against the Prem Nagar Police Post, the officers should look into the matter. The officers continued to listen to our suggestions and said that they should be given a time of 12 hours but the committee suggested that instead of 12 hours, they should take a decision in 3 hours.

At that point of time, the officers said that they were going to Sanjay Gandhi Hospital and we could also go there if we liked. Along with these officers, we also reached the hospital at 2.00 p.m. Hundreds of people were already gathered there and they were raising slogans of ‘Delhi Police murdabad’, ‘they have killed our man’ and ‘the police forcefully takes people from our houses’ etc. We were standing there when some 20-30 maulvies came there and told the police officers that they wanted to join the mayyat. After about two hours, the police closed the gate of the hospital and started lathi-charge on the public. All this happened in the presence of the Municipal Councilor and the MLA. The MLA ran towards the canteen. I also ran along with him. When the noises somewhat diminished, I returned to the original place. I saw that some people had already been taken into custody by the police. As soon as the police saw me, I was also taken into custody. Inside the police vehicle we were 22 men and two women. On the way to the police station, a police man started hitting the younger ones with his feet. We were taken to the Samaipur Badli Police Station. At the time of coming out of the police van at the police station, everyone was hit twice with a lathi.

I was also hit twice. The women who were not beaten were abused very badly. Inside the police station we were made to sit in a row. After we were called by name one by one, given two slaps and our attendance marked. But when Mohd. Yusuf sahib’s name was called, he was slapped by one and another policeman hit him with lathies. These policemen were not having their name plates on their uniforms. While beating Yusuf sahib, a policeman was called him a ……..(unprintable, religiously derogatory word) and said, “You were raising slogans against the police. I will pick your beard off your chin and urinate in your mouth.” When he was not satisfied even with this much, he asked three young men taken into custody along with us that he would let them go if they hit the maulana with their shoes. The ‘maulana’ was sitting in a corner and weeping.

Then my name was called: Irfan Ulla Khan, aged 67 years
When my name was called, I stood up. The Head Constable started beating me with lathies. I was beaten so brutally that because of pain and dryness my tongue came out. He caught me with my beard, spat on my face, hit me with his leg and threw me to one side. I sat down in a corner. Others were made to sit after two slaps each. The women and an 82 years old man were spared from beating but foul abuses were hurled even at them. The behavior and brutality of the policemen suggested that they would not even hesitate in killing us. We do not know why they did not do so. While beating us, the police was asking us “Who is Bihari?”

Kari Mohd. Lukman, the Principal of Madarsa Jamia Rahmania Tazvidul Koran (Named in the FIR at Sr. No. 19)
After hearing about Hafiz Kamaluddin I reached Sanjay Gandhi Hospital. On reaching there I was taken into police custody and put into a police van. There were two women, 20 maulivies and two other people in the van. On way to the police station a policeman named Vijender continued to beat the people in the van with his boots. At the time of being taken out of the van at Badli Police Station, Vijender called us the agents of Bangla Desh and Pakistan and Laden’s men. On being asked what work we did, we replied that we ran madarsas. On hearing that he called us ‘terrorists with beard and cap’.

Statement of Mohd. Yusuf (Named in the FIR at Sr. No. 12)
On hearing about Hafiz Kamaluddin I reached Sanjay Gandhi Hospital at 3.00 p.m. There was a big crowd there. The ACP, DCP and SHO were present there. There were many media people also. Women present there were shouting slogans against the police. I asked Amzad, the brother-n-law of Hafiz sahib, who was present there what could we do to help them and what the police was saying. Amzad told me that the police wanted them to give their consent for the post-mortem and he thought that they should first release the people arrested from Prem Nagar. But the police officers were adamant.

I went near the place where women were shouting slogan against the police. A woman who was one of those who were not shouting slogans was telling the others that the policemen had beaten the ‘mullaji’ outside the emergency ward brutally with fists and boots covered feet. I requested that woman to tell me everything in detail and also to the media persons present there. By the time I called some media persons there to hear the version of the woman who had herself seen the policemen beating Hafiz sahib, the woman had gone to attend to her patient in the hospital. Then I told them what the woman had told me. The woman had told me that she was in the hospital with her patient. When she had come down to take tea for the patient, she had seen a ‘mullaji’ with tied up hands and feet being beaten up by the policemen with their fists and feet. He was asking for water, crying with pain and also calling for help but the policemen were not taking pity on him. As soon as I told the media persons this account as given to me by that woman, the police surrounded me and took me into their custody lest more people who had seen that incident should come out before the media persons to tell them about it. On way to the police station, I myself and another person maulvi Sheikh Amman Ulla were badly beaten by the policeman Vijender with fists and feet because we had talked to the media at the hospital.

He was also hurling bad abuses at us. At the time of marking our attendance at the Badli Police Station, when my name was called out I stood up. At that time Head Constable Vijender beat me up with a lathi and another constable started beating with his shoe. He also abused me saying that I had made a statement before the media. These policemen were not wearing their name plates on their uniforms. After my release on 25th of April when I visited Sultanpuri Police Station to claim the things police had taken from me at the time of my arrest I recognized Head Constable Vijender and learnt his name because at that time he was wearing his name plate. While beating us the Head Constable was calling us …….. and asked us why we were shouting slogans against the police. He also threatened me that he would pull out my beard and urinate in my mouth. He even asked three young men arrested with us that he would allow them to go away if they agreed to beat me with their shoes. I sat down in a corner with pain and insult and started weeping.

Statement of Iqbal Alam

I have been a good friend of Hafiz Kamaluddin since 1988. I am a heart patient. I was going to the hospital at 8.30 in the morning on 24th April in an RTV. There was a road jam. So I decided to walk on foot. At that time I came to know that Hafiz Kamaluddin had been killed. I was surprised and shocked. Because the jam was near the 70 feet road, I walked into the local Councilor’s office to know what had happened. I was told that Hafiz Kamaluddin was at the Sanjay Gandhi Hospital. I was thinking of going there when some people returned from there. Some police officers had also reached Prem Nagar. At the office of the Councilor, a committee was formed and I was also named a member of that committee. But as I was not feeling well already and my condition was getting worse, I decided to go to the hospital and walked towards the Mubarakpur Road. As I reached the road, I was called from behind by the SHO by my name. As I reached near him, I was caught by the hand and made to enter the police vehicle. Inside the vehicle there were already some more people. We were then taken to the Police Station. I told the SHO about my condition who sent me to Sanjay Gandhi Hospital and from there I was sent to G. B. Pant hospital. From Pant hospital next day at 5.00 a. m. I was sent back to Sanjay Gandhi hospital and from there to Sultanpuri Police Station. There I was made to sign some papers and sent to the court along with the other people. From the court I was released on bail.

Statement of Ashraf Ansari (Named in the Fir at Sr. No. 8)

I received a phone call from my friend, Shiva Kant Gorakhpuri, that a Muslim had died in the custody of police at Prem Nagar police post on 24.4.2007 at about 12.00 noon. He asked me to go there and find out the details as he himself was also reaching there after some time. I took my motorcycle and proceeded towards the police post at Prem Nagar along with my friend Gulfam. We reached the local MCD Councilor’s office. Some people were already gathered there and were discussing the death of Hafiz Kamaluddin. I also started making enquiries from some of them. The police caught me from there along with some more people and put me inside their vehicle. On the way to the Police Station at Sultanpuri the policemen accompanying us hurled all kinds of abuses at us, misbehaved with me and others and beat up some of us. The same kind of behavior was repeated at the police station. The police seemed to be clearly biased against Muslims because they were brutal against those who appeared to be Muslims from their appearance. Perhaps my being clean shaven saved me from being beaten. Later I was charged along with some more people and I got my bail from the court the next day.

Statement of Shyamji Dube, a social worker

I live at Prem Nagar. When I came to know about the death of Hafiz sahib, being a social worker I went to 70 Feet road on 24th April, 2007. A large number of people were gathered there and were expressing their sympathy for Hafiz sahib’s family. Many more people were shouting slogans against the police. After some time the police started resorting to lathi charge against the people and started taking people into their custody. I was also taken into custody and put inside the police van. Many Hindus were let off at the Police Station after the police came to know our names. I was also let off. On way to the police station, the police misbehaved with most people, hurled abuses and beat up many of those who were taken into custody along with us.

Statements of Jai Pal Nehra, Shiva Kant Gorakhpuri, Ajay Yadav, Gulfam and Abdul Rab
All the above mentioned people had gone to the Sultanpuri Police Station on the evening of 24th April 2007 to see the position of those who had been taken into custody from Prem Nagar area. It was about 8.00 p.m. The DCP, Manish Aggarwal, who was present at the Police Station along with other police officers of the North-West District, was addressing about 30 people present there who had gone there to meet their friends and relatives who had been arrested. Some social workers of the area were also present there. In their presence the DCP said that he would teach a lesson to the people of a particular community, which showed a deep rooted communal bias in the mind of the DCP. All the above mentioned people felt that perhaps that was the reason why many people who belonged to the majority community and had been taken into custody from Prem Nagar, were let off from the police station after learning about their identity which is also reflected in the FIR under which out of the 34 people booked, 32 are from the minority community.

All the people arrested on 24th April from Sanjay Gandhi Hospital were first taken to Sanjay Gandhi Hospital at 5.00 a.m. the next day. The purpose was to get their medical examination done. However in the name of their medical their names were asked and they were made to put their thumb impressions. They were neither treated for their injuries nor any medicines given to any of them because they were the people injured by the police. The other 12 people who were arrested from Prem were also booked under the same FIR No. 650 dated 24.4.2007 u/s 147/148/149/186/353/332 of IPC and u/s 3/4 of the Prevention of damage to public property Act 1984.

Findings
Hafiz Kamaluddin was not a mad man as police make him out to be. PUCL met several people living near his home and students who studied in the madrasa and not a single person said that his behavior was in any way abnormal.

Police theory of Hafiz Kamaluddin’s quarrel with the rickshaw puller appears not only false but ridiculous from the very beginning for various reasons. One at between 3:30 and 4 o’clock in the morning how would one imagine a crowd who would be in come into a lynching mood in the quarrel of two unknown persons taking side of one and stoning the other.

It is highly improbable that from a crowd that is angry and furious at the `mad man’ and performs a wonderful task of saving another person `the rickshaw puller’ , from the so called mad man’s violence not a single person would come forward to give a summary statement, even if that be one for simple explanation. No one from the crowd gets injured save mysterious unknown rickshaw puller. The victim is disrobed by the crowd, his hands and feet are tied (as borne by the witnesses). The whole thing defies the crowd psychology in terms of its behavior given the fact the time of the incident is between 3 and 4 in the morning.

Police has no explanation for the mysterious rickshaw puller. Who was he? Where did he live? What was the extent of injuries suffered by him? Where was he admitted? When was he discharged? Police FIR no. 647/24 May mentions that constable was left in the hospital for his care. In a way he was the victim who `began to be stoned’, by the mad man, why was he not made a part of FIR.

Police FIR above cited mentions that police came to know about the `unknown mad’ man’s name when his wife came to the police station. But it was because of the telephone call by the police at 6 o’clock in the morning that the Hafiz’s wife reached the police station. It is interesting to note that police did not know his name but it knew his relative’s telephone numbers. Who provided police this information?

Conclusion

  1. The police theory that Hafiz was mentally unsound is an absolute lie.

  2. Police theory that Hafiz was stoning a rickshaw puller and crowd is also a bundle of lies.

  3. A healthy person had died; the policemen last seen with him explain his death in the most ridiculous manner without providing any proof. Therefore it is but natural that these police men come under serious suspicion.

  4. It seems police in the area have a history of indulging in atrocities and inflicting violence on the people. In people’s perception Hafiz became victim of police violence. That is what triggered a large scale protest. Police instead of clearing its name with convincing proofs and facts indulged in further violence and atrocities against the people.

 

Recommendations

  1. A CBI inquiry should be instituted to get into the bottom of the truth behind the death of Hafiz Kamaluddin.

  2. The staff of the local police station and the police post should be transferred with the immediate effect. More so because the SHO of the concerned police station and the police post in charge continue to intimidate the relatives of the diseased and issue veiled threats to the local people.

  3. A departmental inquiry must be instituted against the men in uniform who have indulged in custody violence against the people who had been detained in the wake of protest against the police.

  4. All cases registered against the people , 32 in all, must be withdrawn by the police. It is apparent that the move is to keep people in awe and intimidated so that if a similar incident take place they dare not protest.

  5. During the course of incident and in its aftermath it has been reported that police men of the area including senior officers have shown utter insensitivity to community feelings and respect for basic civil liberties and human rights. It is highly recommended that Delhi police constitute a centralized human rights education cell that ensures that its all men at least attend one workshop annually on basic rules of police-public interaction and civil and human rights of the people under the constitution.

People's Union for Civil Liberties, 81 Sahayoga Apartmrnts, Mayur Vihar I, Delhi 110091, India. Phone (91) 11 2275 0014