By Akhlad Khan
Shahrukh Pathan – an ordinary young boy became ‘notorious’ for his act of pointing a pistol at a policeman during Northeast Delhi violence. He almost came to being the negative face of Delhi pogrom which was sponsored to target Muslims. A college dropout Shahrukh was interested in bodybuilding and modelling, he used to make tiktok videos and runs a socks repairing shop. In order to dwarf BJP perpetrators, media was made to run story on Shahrukh Pathan to project him as the poster boy of the pogrom and the judge who ordered the Police to give explanation “as to why the FIR’s must be registered against the two BJP leaders Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur” was scrupulously transferred overnight.
As protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act rocked the country, several leaders of the BJP, gave speeches ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections to incite violence against CAA opponents. Many such speeches have been made part of minority commission report prepared by a nine-member team headed by MR Shamshad, advocate-on-record in the Supreme Court and comprising Haseena Hashia, Tehmina Arora, Gurminder Singh Matharu, Saleem Baig, Aditi Dutta, Tanvir Kazi, Abu Bakr Sabbaq and Devika Prasad – charged that even after the violence there continued to be bias against the Muslims in registration of FIRs and investigation of cases. The report alleges that those who were protesting against the CAA were attacked by Hindu right-wing groups. It cites the instances of Rambhakt Gopal, who had opened fire at the protesters at Jamia Millia Islamia on January 30, and Kapil Gurjar, who had attacked the Shaheen Bagh protest site with bullets on February 1.
The riots, according to the report, broke out immediately after Kapil Mishra’s speech on February 23 at Maujpur where he spoke of forcibly removing the protesters from Jaffrabad. However, the Delhi Police failed to take steps necessary to avoid violence. “Deputy Commissioner of Police North East district, Shri Ved Prakash Surya, was standing right next to Shri Kapil Mishra when he said ‘after that we will not listen to the police…”. At this point, the police failed to apprehend and arrest Kapil Mishra and all those gathered to hear and cheered his speech. This indicates that they failed to take the first and most immediate preventive step needed to avoid violence from arising and protect life and property.” The police was coordinating with the mob and the mob kept on chanting, ‘Dilli Police Zindabad’ (Long Live Delhi Police).
The Delhi police, who report directly to Home Minister Amit Shah, either stood idly by or escorted the mobs. Videos of police breaking CCTV cameras and taunting prone and bleeding Muslim men while filming them with their smartphones circulated on social media. The violence echoed that of 2002, when Modi was chief minister of Gujarat and authorities there did nothing to stem carnage that killed some 1,000 people, the majority of them Muslims. It also brought back memories of the revenge killings of at least 3,000 Sikhs in Delhi after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards in 1984.
The violence raged across the north-east of India’s capital for four days as mosques were set alight, Muslims were burned alive in their homes or dragged out into the streets and lynched. Muslim businesses and property were also set alight. In streets where Hindus and Muslims had lived peacefully side by side, bodies lay bloodied alongside discarded and burned-out cars, bikes, shattered glass and smouldering shopfronts. The police have been accused of enabling, encouraging or even joining in with Hindu mobs.
Arvind Kejriwal, the newly re-elected chief minister of Delhi, proved himself powerless to contain the violence in his city. Too weak to put himself physically on the line—as Mahatma Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru did not hesitate to do when Hindus and Muslims clashed during the fraught years before India’s independence—his appeal to bring in the army to ensure public safety was refused by Modi’s government.
In many areas of North East Delhi, properties owned by Muslims were destroyed while those owned by Hindus, even though standing adjacent to the targeted properties, remained unscathed. So was the case with the shops. Similarly, properties of Hindu owners rented to Muslims were not damaged while the belongings of the tenants were looted or burnt outside the premises. The minority commission report says that the mobs specifically vandalised Muslim places of worship as well as religious symbols, like copies of the Quran. On the other hand, it said religious places of worship of non-Muslims in Muslim-majority areas were largely left untouched, and in some cases were protected by the local Muslim residents.
The violence followed an organised and systematic pattern” against Muslims and their properties. The testimonies suggest that Muslim women were attacked on the basis of their religious identity; their hijabs and burqas were pulled off. The MC report cites a complaint of a woman from Dayalpur, describing the Delhi Police busting a sit-in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Chand Bagh, which alleges, “Police pulled their pants down and pointed their genitals towards the women stating that they wanted ‘freedom’ and they were there to give them ‘freedom’ and that this was their ‘freedom.’”
The same complaint alleges the Delhi Police dragged a 12-13 year-old girl at the protest.
“While the slogans of ‘Azadi’ (a cry for freedom from the discriminatory laws and practices) were used by the protesters, the police used the same chants of ‘Azadi’ to sexually harass women and attack them, including at least one incident of a police officer flashing his genitals in front of women protesters,” the report said. The report also cites testimony of a woman from Khajuri Khas, who said that some women jumped off an 8 to 10 feet wall to save themselves.
Shahrukh Pathan a resident of Mustafabad stood up to save women protesters when they were sexually harassed and attacked by the goons and when the unarmed police was acting as the bystander at the protest site facing the dissidents. A 23 year old boy rushed to defend the women dissenters, he snatched a pistol from the person attacking on him amidst the riots and fired in Air in rage to deter the public and dispersed the violent goons. The witness police constable Deepak Dahiya states in an interview given to a national media channel that the situation becomes under control after Shahrukh had fired in air, the goons retreated back and the police had then taken control over the area.
Since Pathan was captured on camera pointing gun at a police officer during the Delhi riots on February 24, 2020, he was apprehended on 03.03.2020, case against him was registered under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for rioting, being a member of unlawful assembly, attempt to murder, and sections of the Arms Act. Denying his bail petition, the court observed, “The accused is alleged to have participated in the riots and has been duly identified. His picture speaks volumes about the involvement and the conduct of the accused on the said day.”
There are numerous judgements which states that the FIR must be lodged instantaneously and any unexplained delay in lodging of FIR must be seen with suspicion as it gives room for motivated and after-thought allegations. The FIR lodged against SRK was after a period of around 56 hours without assigning any reasons about delay. The Ld. Addl Sessions judge conveniently ignores this argument despite this argument being supported by 2 Supreme Court judgements.
Moreover, immediately after 2 days of lodging FIR Constable Deepak Dahiya gave video interviews on 28th February 2020 to various news channels wherein he has categorically stated that the assailant had not shot at him. Therefore, the imposition of section 307 is nothing but a gross abuse of power by the police officials in furtherance to their political vendetta. The L.d Trial Court dismissed the instant bail application by erroneously holding that despite contradiction of statement given by the complainant Dahiya in his 161 CrPC statement and TV interviews, the TV interviews cannot be relied upon as the said interviews have not been made part of charge-sheet.
The above submission was important for the court to record owing to the fact that the complainant who is the police officer has stated in his FIR that Shahrukh, with intention to kill him, aimed at his head and shot him and he narrowly escaped whereas in all his media interviews categorically stated that Shahrukh never shot at him. The court shrugged of this glaring statement of the complainant by holding that such media interviews are not part of chargesheet whilst ignoring the fact that in the instant case the complainant and the investigating agency are the police officials themselves. They can cherry pick evidence of their own choosing.
The court goes on to term this glaring contradiction as “minor discrepancy”. It amuses us as to how a person who narrowly escaped death could state that such attempt was never made and it could be termed as minor discrepancy. If we are to judge the conduct of the prosecution in the light of above, we can safely say that prosecution has scant regard for the rule of law and judiciary and it believes that it can do anything any which way unabated.
The police officials and the prosecution were so hell bent in misleading the court that the only exculpatory evidence according to which this instant FIR was forced to be lodged by senior police officers is the alleged viral video which claims to have captured Shahrukh shoot at the complainant with intent to kill him. The said video, despite being submitted by the witness Saurabh Trivedi to the police officials has not been supplied to the court, despite filing of chargesheet, simply for the reason that no such act of shooting at the complainant ever happened and that the misdeeds and fraud played by the Investigating officers in actively misleading the court would come on record if this video is at all furnished.
The prosecution with their sheer propaganda has managed to imprint every mind including the minds of judiciary into believing in a non-existing mythical video, to contain the footage of the present applicant shooting at the complainant and the said video cannot be shared with the applicant as other possible suspects might run away and the Ld. Addl. Sessions judge simply believes whatever the prosecution says and dismisses the bail application.
In stark contravention to such clear position of the laid down law, Pathan has been languishing behind bars for the past 15 months despite the non-commencement of trial, the trial has been suspended indefinitely, the inhumane brunt of which is being faced by Shahrukh. This indefinite incarceration at pre-trial stage, when no other investigation is required to be done, directly infringes upon the personal liberty of the Petitioner as every accused person is manifestly there is going to be delay in conducting trial, the Petitioner cannot be made to suffer and must be released on bail as held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Babba v. State of Maharashtra, (2005) 11 sec 569 that “when there is a delay in the trial, bail should be granted to the accused”.
Now the question is “if all the democratic mechanism of the country operates on the dictum of the supreme leader like what happened in Germany during Hitler, what must the citizens do”?
Akhlad Khan is writer – journalist
ex sub-editor Times of Uttar Pradesh newspaper, activist and case attendant of Shahrukh Pathan.