Two weeks after the Uttar Pradesh police killed two men in an 'encounter' that they invited journalists to watch, activists say that they are trying to locate another man who was picked up by the police in connection with the same case. Nafeesh Alam, 23, reportedly suffers from a combination of serious mental illnesses.
The kin of the men who were killed have alleged that the police's account of the event is false and that the two were abducted and murdered in cold blood. The father of the one of the deceased has also reportedly gone missing since then.
The Uttar Pradesh police has been under the scanner over their trigger-happy habits. Most recently, an Apple executive was shot dead by a police constable in Lucknow after he allegedly refused to stop his car for checking. The number of encounters have also shot up since Yogi Adityanath took over as chief minister—according to a 30 September report in The Times of India, the UP police have conducted more than 1,500 encounters since March 2017.
Documents seen by HuffPost India reveal that Nafeesh, who lived in Atrauli village in Aligarh, is under heavy medication for various mental illnesses. According to prescriptions shared by his family, these medications include those for seizures, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The prescriptions, dated from 2016 to 2018, have been issued by an Agra-based government mental health facility.
Nafeesh's neighbour, who did not want to be identified, told HuffPost India that the man was 'disturbed' and it was evident to everyone that his behaviour was not 'normal'. He used to constantly talk to himself and shouted and said things that did not make sense, he said.
"It is impossible to not understand that he is suffering from a mental problem when you see him," the man said, pointing out that the police could not have missed it either. The prescriptions also mention 'abusive behaviour' and 'muttering to self' as symptoms Nafeesh suffered from.
Nafeesh is the uncle of Mustaqeem, who was killed by the police.
Rajeev Yadav, an activist with Rihai Manch, an organisation that works for the political rights of Muslims and Dalits, said that there was ample evidence that the police was concocting the story of the 'encounter'.
On 20 September, police in Aligarh informed the media that an 'encounter' was on at Harduaganj town near Aligarh. The police said that two bike-borne men were trying to flee when they were stopped at a check-post at Harduaganj. They also fired at the police. The police said that they chased the men, who then took shelter in a building and kept shooting constantly, and later died in retaliatory firing. The incident took place around 6:30 am. Police added that there was a bounty of Rs 25,000 each on the two men, who were wanted in various murder cases.
However, the kin of the deceased—who were also from Atrauli—alleged that the police arrived with their landlord and rounded up six men on the evening of 16 September. Apart from Naushad and Mustaqeem, the deceased, the four other men were Salman, Irrfan, Yasin and Nafeesh.
At a recent press conference, Rafeeqan, Mustaqeem's mother, told the media that on 20 September, they were asked to visit a local hospital where they found the dead bodies of their sons. According to them, their sons were daily wage labourers.
Yadav of Rihai Manch told HuffPost India that there is ample evidence to punch holes into the police's version of events. He said that soon after the men were taken by the police, Yasin's wife visited the local police station in Atrauli, where she was told that the men have been taken to Harduaganj police station, which is at least a six-hour car ride from their village. However, she was not allowed to meet her husband.
"The police has been saying that Yasin and Irrfan had been arrested, in connection to the same case, in the intervening night of 17 and 18 September. But, smelling a rat, Yasin's wife sought help from a local leader and filed a complaint addressed to the chief minister, inspector general and DIG through Jansunwai, the Uttar Pradesh government website meant to address public grievances. The printout of the complaint clearly says it was filed on 17 September. How can the police then claim that the men were arrested in the wee hours of 18 September?" Yadav told HuffPost India.
Activists from two organisations confirmed that Nafeesh is still in police custody. Nafeesh is the son of a single mother who does not have the resources to pursue legal proceedings to free him.
Meanwhile, the case has taken another bizarre turn. On 28 September, the Uttar Pradesh police filed a complaint against activists of a Delhi-based organisation called United Against Hate, which had organised a press conference with the mothers of the encounter victims. The organisers have been accused of 'abducting' the families of the dead men. The complaint has reportedly been filed by Mustaqeem's wife at Atrauli police station.
The press conference was held at the Delhi Press Club on 29 September, with the women who were 'abducted' in attendance.