Mumbai Cops Investigate Case of Alleged Police Brutality Against Muslims

Rohit Wadhwaney
2015.10.19
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151019-IN-asif-1000 Asif Shaikh (right), who was allegedly beaten by police officers after his arrest, is pictured outside K.B. Bhabha Hospital in Mumbai, Oct. 17, 2015.
Courtesy of Rahul Dangle

Police in Mumbai are investigating allegations that members of its force illegally detained and assaulted two Muslim youths without reason this weekend, the city’s top cop said.

Asif Shaikh and Danish Sheikh, both 19, allege that plainclothes policemen from western Mumbai’s Bandra neighborhood picked them up after they got into a roadside “verbal altercation with a group of intoxicated men” early Saturday morning.

Asif, a trainer at a gym, said his arm was broken and he sustained injuries to his back, groin and legs while he and his friend Danish were being held. The two allege they were beaten with belts and batons during their detention at the Bandra police station for over three hours.

“They said we are Pakistanis, we are terrorists and that we should go back to Pakistan,” Asif told BenarNews over the phone Monday from K.B. Bhabha Hospital, where he was being treated.

Mumbai, India’s financial hub, has been targeted in a series of terrorist attacks since 1993, which killed hundreds of people. Islamist militants based in Pakistan have been suspected of involvement in the attacks.

Threatened with hot oil

The group of eight policemen who assaulted the duo was led by an inspector, Asif said.

“I asked the inspector why we were being detained. That agitated him. I was then stripped, handcuffed and repeatedly hit with belts and batons. At one point, they threatened to pour hot oil on me. I was crying and begging for them to stop,” Asif said.

The physical torture lasted from about 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., when he passed out, he recalled.

The cops left the room when Asif lost consciousness, said Danish, who then managed to use his phone to videotape his friend lying in a pool of blood, and send a message to their relatives.

“During the assault, they slapped and punched me. But Asif bore the brunt of their anger,” Danish told BenarNews on Monday.

Asif’s uncle, Omar Shaikh, who was the first to reach the police station on receiving Danish’s message, alleged that the cops offered him Rs. 50,000 (U.S. $772) to keep silent about the assault on his nephew.

“The way they had roughed up the boys, I was obviously not going to stay quiet. Policemen like these need to be exposed,” Omar told BenarNews.

‘Extremely aggressive’

Mumbai Police Commissioner Ahmed Javed said an inquiry into the incident was under way.

“A DCP (Deputy Commissioner of Police) began inquiring into the incident last evening and an appropriate action will follow,” Javed told reporters Sunday.

DCP Satya Narayan Choudhary, who is leading the probe, said Asif and Danish were booked for being involved in a scuffle and assaulting a police officer.

“There was a fight between two groups at Galaxy Apartments (in Bandra suburb). We arrested them and charged them under Section 353 of the Indian Penal Code. All other allegations are the subject of an inquiry,” The Indian Express quoted him as saying.

While denying allegations that the policemen referred to the Muslim youths as Pakistani agents or asked them to return to Pakistan, an officer at the Bandra police station said Asif’s behavior was “extremely aggressive” while he was being questioned.

“The two (Asif and Danish) were brought to the police station at about 2:45 a.m. They had been involved in a physical fight with another group,” the officer told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.

“While being questioned, Asif punched [the] inspector and even tried to grab a rifle kept in a corner of the room. But he was subdued in time,” he said.

The officer, however, did not confirm or deny that the two youths were assaulted by the cops in the police station, saying: “The truth will emerge once the inquiry is complete.”

No initial record of arrest: attorney

Advocate Rahul Dangle, who is representing Asif and Danish, said the police had “framed charges” against his clients to save themselves.

“Until Saturday evening, there was no station diary entry, which is a protocol, that Asif and Danish were even detained. Suddenly, they have charged them with assaulting a police officer,” Dangle told BenarNews.

“We will be filing a writ petition in court against the police in a day or two,” he added.

The latest incident comes close on the heels of a string of attacks on minorities in India since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in May last year.

“It is disgraceful and abominable,” Farida Abdula Khan, of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), said of the alleged assault on Asif and Danish.

“It is becoming a disturbing pattern. We are shocked and horrified,” Khan told BenarNews on Monday, adding that the commission would soon come out with a statement to condemn attacks on minorities as well as make recommendations for calming inter-communal tensions with India’s Hindu majority.

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