Khalid Mujahid, proclaimed by the police as one of the executors of the serial blasts that rocked UP courts in November 2007, died in police custody yesterday (18th May 2013). This young man, with no past medical record, the police claim died of sudden medical complications, on his way back to Lucknow prison, having made his appearance in court in Barabanki in connection with the serial blasts case. In 2011, a report, Torture in India, had documented how custodial killings were rampantly passed off as sudden medical complications and natural deaths (ACHR, p. 8).
Foul Play Obvious:
– The DIG, Faizabad, Dharmendra Singh Yadav, first announced that his death had been caused by ‘heat wave’ and then the story quickly changed to ‘heart attack’.
– His lawyer, Md. Shoaib, who met Khalid in the court, and in fact was with him till 3 in the afternoon, had found him to be normal, healthy and in high spirits. Eyewitnesses who saw the body before it was sent for autopsy found signs of bleeding from his mouth and ear.
– Moreover, Advocate Md. Shoaib has pointed out that whilst he was wearing a kurta pyajama in the court appearance earlier in the day, the dead body wore lowers and T-shirt, clearly indicating foul play.
– Why was the inquest conducted in such a hurried manner without the presence of Mujahid’s family and lawyer? Indeed, had it not been for the large public mobilization, the police and local administration were planning to conduct the autopsy quickly and secretively.
It may be recalled that while the UP STF had claimed to have arrested Mujahid and Qasmi from the Lucknow Charbagh railway station 22 December 2007, the two has actually been picked up days before in full public view, triggering fears of abduction. There had been demonstrations at the local administration demanding for their release as well as filing of a missing persons complaint before the sensational press conference by the STF announcing their arrests.
The long struggle by the democratic forces in UP against the blatant framing of Khalid Mujahid and Tariq Qasmi in the serial court blasts case, which led to the institution of R.D. Nimesh Commission, and the subsequent dismissal of the police claims about the timing and place of arrest of Mujahid and Qasmi, had made the police establishment in UP very nervous. It was obvious that the public pressure was not simply to release the duo but also to seek the prosecution of those policemen, then in the STF, who had falsely framed them.
In these circumstances the ‘heart attack’ theory looks implausible and a brazen attempt to hide a blatant case of custodial killing.
We reject the UP Chief Minister’s announcement of a High powered enquiry committee packed with senior bureaucrats and high ranking UP police officers. We demand that:
1) Khalid Mujahid’s death be treated as a case of custodial killing and a case of murder be booked against those police officers escorting him;
2) Those policemen named in the FIR filed by Khalid Mujahid’s family in the early hours today, should be arrested without delay
3) A CBI enquiry be ordered into the incident;
4) The post mortem report and the videography of the postmortem be made public;
5) The Chief Minister should assure the safety and protection of Tariq Qasmi and other accused in the case;
6) The Chief Minister should immediately order compensation to the family of Khalid Mujahid.
Teesta Setalavad (activist, Mumbai); Shabnam Hashmi (ANHAD), Kavita Srivastava (PUCL); Ahmed Sohaib (JTSA); Mansi Sharma (activist, Delhi); Mahtab Alam (activist, Delhi); Manisha Sethi (JTSA)
(Send your endorsements to Mahtab Alam : firstname.lastname@example.org)