I had been receiving phone calls from the relatives and friends of Qasam Abdullah Hayat, who was allegedly killed in police custody in Godhra, Gujarat. I went there to understand and assess the situation. I spoke with the relatives and friends of the deceased.
What I came to know is heart wrenching.
He was a resident of Godhra. He was a regular person respected for his kind-heartedness. He was 35 and has left behind a wife and two sons, 13 and 16. He used to work as a labourer in a factory. But like millions in the country and around the world, the Corona pandemic cost him his job, after which he started a pakoda install. The little self-employment provided enough income to keep a small family going.
On 14 September 2021, he was returning to Godhra on his motorbike from Sewalya where he had gone for some work. As he approached Bhamia Chokdi on Ahmadabad Road he was stopped and arrested by the police.
Police claimed that it had arrested Qasam on a tip-off from an informer to police officer H. N Patel that Qasam was allegedly carrying beef. A police team consisting of constable Sidhraj Gagendra, sub-inspector N R Rathor rushed to the point where Qasam was stopped and arrested him
After being arrested, Qasam was taken to B Division police station of Godhra. The in-charge of that police station, H N Patel, has reportedly earned notoriety as an Islamophobe.
Qasam’s sister Bilqis and brother-in-law, Qasim, were allowed to see him six-seven hours after the arrest. Qasam told them that before being arrested he was taken and presented before a ‘vigilante court’ of Hindutva goons where he was beaten black and blue. Two Hindutva goons, Pragnesh Sony and Pratik Kharadi, are known to have led vigilante gang.
Qasam’s friend Sahil also went to see him the same day in the evening when Qasam narrated how he has been mercilessly beaten.
On 15 September Sahil went to see him again in the morning and Qasam told him that he was beaten all the night long. He also said they went through the numbers stored in his mobile phone, selected some of these and forced him to name them, especially women, as his accomplices. These names were later included in the FIR.
The next morning Sahil went to the place with tea and breakfast for Qasam but he was shouted at and forced to go away. He went again a little later and was sent back.
At about 10.30am police a constable, Saleem visited Qasam’s elder brother Bilal’s house and told him that Qasam has committed suicide.
Bilal went to the PS along with Showkat, a family member, where they were shown the dead body of Qasam.
Besides Patel there were other police officials present in the police station.
After sometime Qasam’s body was sent for post-mortem.
According to the police Qasam had hanged himself with a rope. But the height between the floor and the roof in that room is only 4 feet.
According to police’s script, Qasam had hanged himself with a rope and committed suicide. Even the CCTV footage gives this impression. However, those who are aware of the surroundings and the structure of police lockups in India say that someone hanging himself inside a lockup is impossible.
The police is trying to give the impression that in order to take his own life Qasam tied a rope or a bedsheet with a grilled gate that is only at the height of 4ft from the ground.
Police’s extraordinary explanation for this is that when Qasam found that such a low height was not enough to hang himself, he bent his legs and dangled himself until death.
People in the area who do not believe the police story say that the killers of Qasam will go scot free like those who eliminated Mohsin Sheikh, Hafiz Junaid, Pehlu Khan etc.
Author Samiullah Khan is an activist and General Secretary of Campaign for Peace and Justice.
c. The Siasat Daily