Muslim Minors Arrested In Khargone Riot Say They Were Abused, Forced To Sing Bhajans
Police arrested several minors for rioting after the Ram Navami procession turned violent in Madhya Pradesh's Khargone. They now allege abuse.
Madhya Pradesh: A day after the riot in Madhya Pradesh's Khargone city on April 10, police stormed the house of two brothers at 1 am and arrested them. The accused were a 16-year-old and his 17-year-old brother.
The duo were sleeping with their 50-year-old father and an uncle when a group of 8-10 police personnel barged inside the home, breaking three gates by force one after another, alleged the family.
In the middle of the night, the family say, Touseef and Rehan (*names changed to protect identity) were dragged from the room to the hall, abused, stripped, beaten black and blue by a group of cops in front of their mother and 70-year-old grandfather.
Touseef and Rehan are among 12 minors who were booked in seven separate FIRs lodged in the fallout of Khargone riot at Kotwali police station. Minors aged between 14 to 17 were booked largely under sections 147, 149, 336, 435, 436 and 427 and others, amounting to rioting, arson and mischief with intent to cause harm. They were all arrested within three-four days of the clash.
Out on bail after over a month, the minors allege that they were abused by the police and mistreated inside the juvenile correction home. They say they were forced to sing Bhajans and read the Gita.
What Happened On The Night Of Arrest
The eyewitnesses, which includes family members of the two brothers and their neighbours, claimed that after assaulting their father, the cops who were armed with sticks and iron rods assaulted their 35-year-old maternal uncle till he fell unconscious.
"He is innocent, he came back home with us after we heard of the riots," the father remembered pleading to the police. He said that the police responded by kicking his belly and said, "Let him die, at least there will be one less Jihadi."
When a police official charged towards Rehan, his brother came out in defense and told them that they were home when the clashes broke out. "Our locality was peaceful despite the mixed population. Father had confined us inside the home upon hearing about the clash," Tauseef said. To this, the cops allegedly called them a 'Jihadi' and a 'liar'.
Rehan reported three head injuries, while Tauseef was hit on limbs and back. "They abused our mother when she cried seeing blood dripping down from Rehan's head as he fell unconscious," recalled Tauseef.
"They assaulted us for over 25 minutes without saying a single word about the case and dragged our unconscious uncle and Rehan to the police van."
A day after the Ram Navami procession turned violent, bulldozers and JCB machines rumbled through curfewed Khargone demolishing 49 homes and shops. On April 10, at least 50 people were injured in Khargone following communal clashes during a Ram Navami procession. A man was killed during the clashes and Superintendent of Police Siddharth Chaudhary was shot in the leg. The arrests followed soon after.
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The Curious Case Of The FIR
Touseef and Rehan's names were not in the FIR registered on a written complaint given by BJP general secretary Shyam Mahajan at Kotwali police station on April 12 at 11:32 PM. In fact, the two boys were arrested almost nine hours before the FIR was registered.
In his complaint, Mahajan stated that on the night of April 10 some "unidentified" men set his house on fire along with a Yamaha bike belonging to his younger brother.
The Kotwali police named six Muslims and "others" in the FIR, but neither the minors, nor their father or uncle were named in the police report.
According to their advocate Muazzam Khan, the documents submitted by the police in court against both minors brothers accusing them for stone pelting and arson were later incorporated in the BJP leader's FIR.
When BOOM reached out to the police inquiring about the FIR report, they said there will be due investigation.
Speaking over the phone, Rehan's mother recalled, "They were assaulting my kids and husband like animals, calling them Jihadi in front of me. I felt helpless hearing their screams."
She said that the police used the curtain's rods, when their stick broke, to assault her sons. The trauma of that incident left the mother bedridden for a week.
"They turned the house upside down, breaking everything they could and took away some expensive items including a smartphone. They were full of hatred. They laughed while beating my kids," alleged their grandfather.
Owing to the curfew restrictions, the family said they managed to lodge a complaint at Kotwali police station three days after the incident detailing how 8-10 policemen barged into their homes, hurled abuses at them, inflicting violence and taking away four people including two minors. The family in its application has pleaded that their home was far from the site of the communal violence and has nothing to do with the violence.
"They broke some things and took some. We had to incur a loss of at least 2-3 lakhs that night," said their grandfather.
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The family that is involved in running multiple small businesses including a hardware shop and stalls at state fairs are financially strained, looking at even more difficult future. The minors' father, the sole breadwinner of the family, is behind bars even after 50 days.
What Happened After Their Arrest
The police had kept the two brothers in Kotwali Police station before presenting them to the court. "We were kept hungry for those three days. We drank tap water from the toilet to survive," said Tauseef.
The two brothers were let off on May 18.
On the fourth day, the police took their father and uncle to the court. They were sent to jail. The arrested minors were taken to Juvenile Court which ordered police custody; they were then sent to a juvenile correctional home, 90-km away from Khargone in Khandwa.
The bail application of both brothers was first rejected by the juvenile court. They secured the bail only after they approached the sessions court.
"We Were Forced To Sing Bhajans, Read Gita"
Walking out of the facility after over 35 days, the Muslim boys allege physical violence, targeted harassment and denial of food and water. They allege that they were forced to sweep chambers of the officials in the correctional home.
"A middle-age man would come and play bhajans of of lord Ganesh and Kali mata on his mobile phone. He forced all Muslim youths to sing. We were given the Gita Gyan and were made to read it. And those who refused or failed to read it properly were punished with iron pipes," alleged 17-year-old Aman (name change), another minor accused of arson and riot, who was in the same juvenile correction home.
The children alleged that the officers at the correction home made them do strange chores. They said they were asked to sit like a chicken as the officers would beat them with iron pipes. They were asked questions about namaz, eating habits and about Islam.
Two other minors aged between 14 and 17 also alleged that they were assaulted during the arrest and in prison. They said they were served uncooked food forcing many to sleep hungry.
"Maximum number of minors were charged with section 436 (arson) and 147 (riot) of the IPC. Many of these minors have alleged brutality inside the correctional home," said advocate Shahid Khan.
Harijender Arora, the caretaker of Khandwa correctional home was not available for the comment despite repeated attempts.
12 Minors, All Muslims, Arrested In Khargone Riot Case
Tauseef and Aman wanted to become doctors to cure others from diseases. Both secured a respectable percentage in 10th and were preparing for medical examination in a local coaching.
"My sons are traumatised. They have pains in their chests, head, their backs and their legs where they were hit. Their lives are on the line now," said the minors' mother.
On May 10, police lodged FIR against six Muslim women for opposing the arrest of minors and day-to-day harassment of innocents during a kilometre long march. The protesters alleged that youth were being hauled into custody without a fair probe and proper identification.
They also handed a two-page memorandum related to their demands. But, that evening, the police booked them for carrying out a march without permission.
Speaking over the phone, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Khargone, Tilak Singh showed concern over the alleged police brutality on the children during the arrest and in custody. "It's true that orders were given to arrest the accused but not at the cost of violence as the family and minors alleged. Will look into the matter if anyone complains against it," he told BOOM.
Altaf Azad, a senior member of a local outfit who is helping minors in bail pointed out that even after 50 days of the clash, Khargone police failed to find a single accused from the majority community but arrested 12 minors for incidents of arson and stone pelting and mistreated them in jail.
"Over 300 Muslims booked and close to 200 were languishing behind the bars," he said.
Pointing out the lacunas of the cases lodged by the police, targeting Muslims, he said, "A 20-year-old mentally challenged boy was booked for arson and stone pelting. Three Muslims were booked for setting a mosque on fire. A class 12th student was denied from sitting in their supplementary exam. He was booked on the complaint of a BJP leader who lives almost 15-km away from Khargone in Bistan."
Azad said he fears how the incidents of police brutality, injustice, and one -sided action will affect the young minds.
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"One minor who had returned from jail attempted suicide but was rescued in time. Showing them the righteous path would be our only target," he added.
17-year-old Tauseef says the police brutality inside their own home and at the juvenile justice care have changed their lives. He says their peers in school taunt them as "criminals". But he is sure that he will get justice. "The court will acquit us because the police do not have a single evidence against us."
*The names of the two boys and their family members have been changed/withheld as they are minors with an FIR against them.
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