NEW DELHI — Faizan, the 23-year-old Muslim man who was filmed as he was brutally assaulted by policemen who forced him to sing the national anthem between beatings, died after the Delhi Police illegally detained him for over 36 hours and denied him urgent medical attention, HuffPost India can establish.
Since news of Faizan’s death was made public on February 28, the Delhi Police has sought to deflect responsibility by claiming they never took Faizan into custody.
HuffPost India spoke to policemen, eye-witnesses, doctors, legal volunteers and Faizan’s family members who contradicted the police account, and established that Faizan’s untimely and violent demise was a direct consequence of police actions over a three-day period from February 24, when Faizan was first assaulted, to February 26, when he finally succumbed to his many injuries at 11 pm.
“For two days, he clamoured for aid locked up inside and they did not let him go,” said Faizan’s sister Sonam who, like her brother, goes by one name.
“His body had turned blue all over when they released him,” Kismatun, Faizan’s 61-year-old mother, said. “He had stitches on his ear and on his head. The policemen had hit him, putting a baton inside his throat. He was in so much pain that he could not even gulp liquids such as water or milk when we got back home.”
Another young man, assaulted and humiliated by the police in the same incident that claimed Faizan’s life, has similar injuries but is terrified of seeking medical attention as he fears the police’s reprisal. HuffPost India is withholding his name to protect him.
ALSO READ: 4 Burnt Mosques In 48 Hours Show Delhi Riots Are About Religion, Not CAA
The Delhi Police’s actions during last week’s communal riots, which have claimed at least 42 lives in the national capital, have come under increasing scrutiny. Much of the criticism thus far has focused on the police’s seeming inability to stop the violence. Videos of policemen assaulting civilians have been explained away as an attempt to bring the violence under control.
Now, the following sequence of events leading to Faizan’s death suggests some members of the Delhi Police actively participated in the communal riots, and bear direct responsibility for at least some of the deaths and violence that unfolded between February 23 and February 27 2020. The Delhi Police reports to the Union Home Minister Amit Shah from the Hindu-rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP’s Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur, and Delhi elections candidate Kapil Mishra have been accused of giving inflammatory speeches shortly before the riots, in a petition before India’s Supreme Court. Opposition parties have demanded Shah’s resignation in light of the Delhi Police’s actions during the riots.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (North East Delhi) Ved Prakash Surya did not respond to this reporter’s phone calls and SMS requests to comment on HuffPost India’s findings. DCP Surya also did not respond to questions of whether the police would formally enquire into the circumstances around Faizan’s death.
“He was in so much pain that he could not even gulp liquids such as water or milk when we got back home.”
– Kismatun, Faizan’s 61-year-old mother
Assaulted, forced to sing national anthem
On February 24, a sit-in protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act in Kardampuri, a neighbourhood in northeast Delhi, had completed its 45th day when residents say they were showered with rocks from across the road.
The stone-pelting in Kardampuri was part of a wave of riots sweeping across this part of the city. As the mostly Muslim residents occupying the road looked up, they say they saw policemen standing with a group of men who were flinging the rocks.
Faizan’s mother Kismatun, who was part of the sit-in protest, told HuffPost India that her son had reached the protest site to look for her.
At about 4 pm, said the unnamed young man cited above, men in police uniforms began violently beating him and other men, including Faizan, outside the Kardampuri mohalla clinic.
“A policeman speaking in a thick Haryanvi accent, who was not wearing a badge, forced us to sing the national anthem if we wanted Azaadi,” he said.
Azaadi, or freedom, has become a rallying cry for many protests against the CAA.
“One of the injured men could not sing it properly,” said this young man who was an eyewitness and a victim of the violence. HuffPost India is withholding his identity to protect him from further police reprisals. “The policemen started getting angrier and started screaming and shouting, saying that if we do not even know the national anthem, what “Azaadi” do we dare for?”
All this while, one of the policemen standing atop them made multiple video clips, he added.
One of these videos quickly went viral. The authenticity of the video has been confirmed by fact-checking site Alt News by comparing it with a second video of the same incident shot from a different angle.
“The policemen put a lathi in the mouth of one of those injured, choking him. They thrashed me till I was barely conscious and then dragged me on the road towards a Gypsy,” the victim said. “The skin on my left temple and eye got scraped off from the friction on the road, as they dragged us for a few metres. They were treating us as if we were beasts, not human.”
HuffPost India can confirm that this eyewitness and victim is currently bed-ridden and still bears visible injuries of his violent assault.
After they were assaulted in the street, the men — including Faizan, and the eyewitness who spoke to HuffPost India — were driven in a police Gypsy to Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital. A preliminary medical examination was conducted, and Faizan received stitches to his head.
HuffPost India has not been able to access a copy of Faizan’s medico-legal certificate prepared by GTB hospital, but has ascertained the certificate’s number, D-23-113844272, from Narendra Rana, Assistant Sub-Inspector of the Delhi Police, deputed at the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital. Faizan’s family told HuffPost India that the hospital was yet to give them a copy of the certificate. A medico-legal certificate, or MLC, is a legal document issued in cases where injured patients are brought to hospitals.
Once Faizan and the other men received very basic first aid, the eyewitness said, they were driven to the Jyoti Nagar police station and placed in the station’s lock up.
On the morning of the next day, February 25, Faizan and the eyewitness were kept in the same cell. The two men did not know each other from before, the eyewitness said.
HuffPost India spoke to a second eye-witness who said he was in the same cell in the Jyoti Nagar Police Station as Faizan and the first eye-witness.
“Both of them could not even walk as they had injuries all over, I had to help both of them go to the toilet on February 25,” this second eyewitness said. “Inside the lock-up, Faizan tried to drink water but he kept vomiting. He got more and more uneasy through the afternoon.”
This second eyewitness said he was not in the “national anthem video”, but he was also assaulted by the Delhi police on February 24.
“When the stone-pelting and tear gas shelling started on February 24 afternoon, I hid in a public toilet to save myself,” the second eye-witness said. “A few policemen saw me come out of the toilet and started thrashing me on the road. I was not in the national anthem video. The police put me in a bus and brought me to Jyoti Nagar where I was locked up. The next morning, Faizan and the other man were shifted into the same cell as me.”
HuffPost India is withholding the name of this second eyewitness as well to protect him from police reprisals.
At 10:30 pm on the night of February 25, said the second eyewitness, Shailendra Tomar, the Station House Officer of the Jyoti Nagar Police Station, called out to the men and asked them their names, their father’s names and their addresses.
Tomar, the second witness subsequently learnt, had received a call from Sajid Khan, a municipal councillor from the Aam Aadmi Party.
“All three of us were handed over to our family members late at night. We returned in an auto rickshaw to Kardampuri at 1 am on February 26,” the second eyewitness said.
While the police dithered, Faizan’s condition had steadily deteriorated in the lock-up.
SHO Tomar confirmed that the men were brought to his station on February 24, but claimed they were released the same night.
“These men were culprits found rioting. They were taken to Guru Teg Bahadur hospital on the evening of February 24, and then brought to this police station, but we allowed their families to take them the same night, and none of them were held here,” Tomar told HuffPost India on Friday, February 28.
The eyewitnesses and Faizan’s family members have contradicted Tomar’s account.
This story first appeared on huffpost.com