EXCLUSIVE: There Were Iron Nails in His Toes and Thighs: The Brutal Custodial Killing of 2 Muslim Youths by Cops in Bihar
“Shooting him straight away would have been better,” said the cousin of one of the victims.
March 8. A Friday evening. Ramdiha village in eastern Champaran. It has been more than 48 hours after Gufran’s death. Right outside his house around twenty-twenty five people have gathered and are whispering among themselves. Upon getting closer, one could discern that they were planning to go to Sitamarhi the next day. The villagers are miffed at the cold response of the local authorities, and now, they want to go to Sitamarhi to pressure the higher authorities.
Tanvir, a cousin of Gufran, is present among this crowd. “We are devastated. It is not something which needs to be said,” says Tanvir. “We noticed during Gufran’s gusl (the bath given to the body of the deceased), two of his toe-nails had been pierced with iron nails. His thighs too had nails hammered in. The police had picked him up from here with the intention of killing him. He was tortured to death. I insist that shooting him straight away would have been better… it wouldn’t have been as painful if they had cut him into two with a sword. He has been tortured every moment until he died.”
A heavyhearted Tanvir added, “Everyone is aware that Gurfran was not charged with any criminal case. Even the senior level police officers were aware of this. Now it’s not about what they took or left behind. What is important is the way the police department is attempting to tweak and conceal the information. The department will always work for its own defence. It is being said that a team of three doctors were involved in his postmortem. And that it has been captured on video. All this is being said for public consumption. But the truth is we were not even asked before the postmortem took place. It took us two hours to look for Gufran in the hospital.”
Everyone in Ramdiha, be it young or old, is deeply anguished about the role of the police in the matter. They have only one appeal — justice for Gufran and Tasleem’s killing.
On the night of March 5, police officers deployed at Sitamarhi raided Ramdiha village to investigate a case about murder and loot. During the raid, both Gufran Alam (35) and Md. Tasleem (30) were picked up for questioning. According to media reports, both the men died in Dumra Police station in Sitamarhi. Their kin alleged that they were brutally beaten in custody, and the police had tortured the two to death.
After the incident and subsequent pressure, eight policemen including the Station House Officer (SHO) were suspended. Sitamarhi SP Amarkesh D was transferred. The zonal DIG is investigating the case now; however, the families assert that the CBI should take over the case.
“Were my legs fine, I would have saved my son”
Tasleem’s father Mulazim Ansari is bed-ridden — he broke his thigh bone. He lifted his pyjamas and showed us the affected area. “Were my legs fine, I would have saved my son. But I am not capable of going anywhere,” he said.
On being asked about the police raid on March 5, Ansari says, “Way past midnight, at 1.30 am on Tuesday, close to twenty police personnel came. Of them, seven-eight broke open the door and barged in. They started throwing away our belongings here and there. They turned the vessels containing rice and pulses upside down. At that time, Tasleem was sleeping in a madrasa adjacent to our house.”
During NewsCentral24x7‘s conversation with Mulazim Ansari, his wife poignantly intervened. Speaking in Bhojpuri, she reiterated, “Someone in the village had invited him over for a feast. We had locked the door and slept by the time he got back. He went to the madrasa and slept there.”
Ansari added that someone had already informed the police that Tasleem was sleeping in the madrasa. The police picked him up from there. “Tasleem asked numerous time who they were and where they were taking him. The police gave no answers. They didn’t even let my child wear his jacket. They beat him brutally, and when he didn’t pass out, he was given an electric shock.”
Tasleem’s mother, holding back her tears, added, “Iron nails were pierced into my boy’s feet.”
During the conversation, Tasleem’s friend Kunal Singh arrived. A visibly agitated Kunal told NewsCentral24x7, “Tasleem was the caretaker of the madrasa. Apart from that, he helped the family with farming the land. The night police picked him up; I was there with Tasleem. On February 20, Tasleem and I went to Majorganj to attend a wedding. There was a wedding at my uncle’s place. We took the ride in a Bolero — a four-wheeler. Now you tell me, would anyone going via a four-wheeler loot a motorbike?”
Kunal added, “The police should have undertaken an investigation first. The next morning the SHO called me and said ‘See I am getting your friend beaten up.’ I immediately insisted that please get an investigation done first.”
With one killing, many lives were destroyed
Gufran’s wife is always in tears. She’s not in a condition to speak. Even before she can utter a couple of words, tears strike her. Everything she says is in wails. “An innocent man was picked up by goons. My kids are orphans. Who will give their life in return for a life? I feel like killing everyone.”
Gufran’s father Manavvar Ali told NewsCentral24x7, “My son returned from Saudi only four months ago. He worked as an electrician in Saudi. He had come after two years there. That night, the police took him away without saying a word.”
“There was no case registered against him. I asked the police why they were taking my son, but they did not respond,” he said. The last conversation the family had with Gufran was early on Wednesday morning. “His brother San-ur Ali spoke to him. I have little idea about who from the police station let him speak to us. I could only hear the recording. He was saying ‘the police is questioning me. They are severely beating me up’.”
San-ur Ali said, “We were aware that he would have been taken to Chakiya police station. But he was transferred from Chakiya to Dumra police station in Sitamarhi. The police were not telling us anything. We managed to glean some information about him around 11 am the next morning; he was lodged in jail at Dumra. When we reached there, we encountered two-three women constables. They informed us that no case from Chakiya station had been transferred to Dumra. We repeatedly requested her to check the register for details.”
“An hour later, a local media person or through a link we had, we heard that both of them (Gufran and Tasleem) are critical and were admitted to Sadar hospital. When we reached there and requested the police to give us information, we were told nothing. Moreover, we were refused to let in. Later on, a media person told us that Gufran and Tasleem had died.”
The kin’s demands
Tasleem’s father Mulazim Ansari said that many politicians visited them after the incident and asked them what steps should be taken. “I said I want my son back alive. When they took him, my son was alive. Why will I accept a dead body? Why will I forgive the police?”
Gufran’s cousin Tanvir Haider says, “Even if the responsible police officers are punished, they would be punished for their wrongdoing. But the trauma through which Gufran’s wife and children are going through, what will compensate that? No amount can be paid for someone’s life, but I request the government of Bihar to think about this.”
The villagers who gathered around appealed that apart from punishing those responsible for the custodial deaths, someone in their families should be appointed in government service. They should get due compensation.
Status of the case
The family alleged that when they registered an FIR against the police, they were not given a copy. Even now, they claim, they haven’t received the postmortem report from the authorities.
Amidst the crowd gathered outside Gufran’s home, Maulana Ajmer Alam said: “Late at night the place barges into someone’s place and picks them up without giving any information. How do we believe that there is the rule of law in Bihar? No one has been arrested until now. We receive information that someone of arrested… then that they ran away from the police station. All this is a drama being staged by the police.”
In the aftermath, higher authorities suspended Dumra SHO and eight other police personnel. A search operation is on to locate the absconding SHO and police officers. On Saturday, the DIG submitted an investigation report about the matter to the IG. However, the police have not made the findings of the report public yet.
DIG Muzaffarpur Anil Singh told NewsCentral24x7 that the lookout for the fleeing police personnel is on. “We are preparing to investigate cases against them.” He refused to give any information regarding the report submitted to the zonal DGI.
(This report was first published in Hindi. Read the original report here.)