In an alleged case of fake encounters, the Uttar Pradesh police on September 21 shot dead two purported criminals – Mustaqeem and Naushad – in Aligarh’s Harduaganj, and ‘invited’ media personnel to film the act. Aligarh SP Atul Srivastava later refuted that the encounters were stage-managed.

The police had claimed that the slain youths were booked for six murders on September 18 and had since been absconding. During interception two days later, they allegedly began shooting at the cops, triggering a crossfire and their eventual death in an encounter. Family members, however, gave a vastly different version of events, claiming that the two youths were picked up from home on September 16 and later killed by the police. They also said that Naushad was a 17-year-old minor.

Activists, journalists and student leaders of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), including Umar Khalid, visited the kin of the deceased on September 27 to investigate the encounters. The following day, several media outlets reported that Khalid was involved in abducting family members of the alleged criminals.

1. Dainik Jagran

Dainik Jagran was among the firsts to make the claim. The title of its report reads – “Umar Khalid involved in kidnapping the mother of a famous criminal, several JNU student leaders also accused (translated)” – however, the article fails to mention anything about the complaint filed against Khalid.

While describing Khalid’s meeting with the kin of the deceased, Dainik Jagran reported, “दिल्ली से यूनाइटेड अगेंस्ट हेट की टीम के नदीम, अब्दुल माजिद, उमर खालिद के साथ एएमयू से पूर्व छात्रसंघ अध्यक्ष मशकूर अहमद उस्मानी, फैजुल हसन व वामपंथी नेता रंजन राना मुस्तकीम व नौशाद के परिजनों से मिलने पहुंचे थे। (‘United Against Hate’ activist Nadeem, along with Abdul Majid, Umar Khalid, AMUSU President Maskoor Usmani, Faizul Hasan and leftist leader Ranjan Rana met the families of Mustaqeem and Naushad.”

“मुस्तकीम की पत्नी हिना ने मशकूर, फैजुल समेत सभी पर जबरन सास शबाना व नौशाद की मां शाहीन को ले जाने की रिपोर्ट दर्ज कराई है। (Mustaqeem’s wife Heena lodged a report against Maskoor, Faizul and everyone else on charges of forcefully taking her mother-in-law Shabana and Naushad’s mother Shaheen),” it further added, without explicitly reiterating that Khalid was involved in the abduction.

2. Jansatta

In a report titled, “JNU student Umar Khalid accused of kidnapping criminal’s mother; Bajrang Dal reaches police station (translated)”, The Indian Express-owned Jansatta claimed that “Umar Khalid, two former student leaders of AMU and several other students are accused of abducting the mothers of the criminals who were killed in Harduaganj encounter.”

However, in a later paragraph, the article says – “उधर, मुस्तकीम की पत्नी हिना ने एएमयू के निवर्तमान व पूर्व अध्यक्ष को नामजद करते हुए सास शबाना व शाहीन उर्फ रानी का अपरहण करने का आरोप लगाया (Mustaqeem’s wife Heena has accused the present and former AMU Presidents of abducting mothers-in-law Shabana and Shaheen.)” Jansatta failed to mention Khalid’s name in this excerpt.

3. Zee News

Zee News published a similar report, titled – “The AMU and JNU connection in Aligarh encounter, serious allegation against Umar Khalid (translated).

The first paragraph of this article says – “पुलिस ने मानवाधिकार कार्यकर्ताओं के एक समूह के खिलाफ अपहरण का मामला दर्ज किया है. इनमें अलीगढ़ मुस्लिम यूनिवर्सिटी (एएमयू) और जवाहरलाल नेहरू यूनिवर्सिटी (जेएनयू) के छात्र नेता भी शामिल हैं. इनपर आरोप है कि उन्होंने मुस्तकीम की मां और दादी का अपहरण किया था (Police has registered a case of kidnapping against a group of human rights activists. This includes student leaders of Aligarh Muslim Unversity (AMU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The allegation against them is the abduction of Mustaqeem’s mother and grandmother.”

However, Zee News in a subsequent paragraph says – “कार्यकर्ताओं के समूह में जेएनयू के छात्र नेता उमर खालिद भी शामिल हैं लेकिन शिकायत में उनको नामजद नहीं किया गया है. (Umar Khalid was also present among the activists, however, his name is not mentioned in the complaint.)”

The first paragraph of the article had implied that JNU student leaders were involved in the abduction and the title suggested a serious allegation against Khalid. However, the subsequent paragraph of the report failed to state the exact role of Khalid or any other JNU student leaders in the abduction.

Furthermore, in contrast to Dainik Jagran’s report which claimed that a complaint was filed by Mustakeem’s wife Heena, Zee News added that Bajrang Dal Secretary Ram Kumar co-authored the written complaint – “तहरीर बजरंग दल के सचिव राम कुमार आर्य और मुस्तकीम की पत्नी हिना की ओर से दी गई थी.”

Several other media outlets report “10 activists” booked under abduction charges

Apart from the aforementioned claims suggesting that Umar Khalid was booked for abducting the kin of the deceased, several mainstream media outlets contrastingly reported that “10 activists” were booked in the case. Among them was The Times of India, The Week, Scroll, Outlook, News18, The Hindu and NDTV. All the reports were attributed to PTI.

According to the reports, “The controversy over the alleged fake encounter of two suspected criminals here took a new twist on Friday with the police booking 10 activists, including Aligarh Muslim University and Jawaharlal Nehru University student leaders, saying they had abducted family members of one of the deceased.” The case was registered in Atrauli police station.

The reports further added, “The activists have been charged with abducting Mustakeem’s mother Shabana and grandmother Rafiquan.” Interestingly, The Times of India published another report on September 29, claiming that the mothers were kidnapped – “AMU students booked for abducting mothers of two criminals killed in police encounter.”

What is the truth?

Alt News contacted SHO Atrauli Police Parvesh Rana who said, “A case has been filed by Mustaqeem’s wife Heena who has named AMU students Maskoor Usmani and Faizul Hasan in the FIR for abducting the criminals’ mothers Shaheen and Shabana.”

In the FIR copy accessed by Alt News, the names of the accused persons match. The complaint, filed under Heena’s name on September 27, claims that seven to eight people entered her home and forcefully abducted her mother-in-law Shabana (Mustaqeem’s mother) and Shaheen (Naushad’s mother). The landlord Imran, mother-in-law Rafiquan and an individual named Nafees were eyewitnesses to the kidnapping, according to the FIR. It further adds that Shabana dialled 100 at around 2 pm and informed the police of her abduction.

Alt News spoke with both Usmani and Hasan, the accused in this case, who claimed that the FIR was false as Heena was coerced into lodging the complaint. They alleged that her thumb impression was taken under false pretences.

We also contacted Umar Khalid who reiterated the same and said that the mothers of deceased had come with them on free will.

When Alt News spoke with Shabana (Mustaqeem’s mother) and Shaheen (Naushad’s mother), they echoed Khalid’s statements. “We just want justice for our sons,” they repeated multiple times. Both women said that they were not abducted but made the decision to accompany Khalid and the others on their own accord.

When the SHO of Atrauli police station was asked if the mothers were contacted for their versions of the story, Parvesh Rana said they were unable to get in touch with the women as the police were unaware of their whereabouts. “We don’t know where Shabhana and Shaheen have been kept, and in what conditions,” SHO Rana told Alt News.

In sharp contrast to the claims made in the FIR and the police’s statements, both the women who were allegedly ‘abducted’ can be seen addressing a press conference held in Delhi on September 29. This was two days after the FIR was filed. The women addressed the media, with their alleged abductees also a part of the event.

“The police picked up our boys from home and beat them up. Later, when we were asked to visit them at the hospital, our sons were dead. The police raided our homes, took our money and all documents,” said Shabana in presence of Khalid, Usmani and Hasan.

Encounter or Murder: Press Conference on the reality of Aligarh encounter. #UnitedAgainstHate

Posted by Umar Khalid on Saturday, 29 September 2018

While the case pertains to an ongoing criminal investigation, the issue of concern is the manner in which it was reported. The titles of several media reports portrayed Umar Khalid as involved in the abduction, while the articles failed to establish the same. The former JNU student enjoys a significant political presence and the misleading reportage points to the apparent use of a familiar name to garner an audience.

Furthermore, while AMU student leaders Maskoor Ahmad Usmani and Faizul Hasan are co-accused in the FIR, they can both be seen with their alleged abductees in a public forum. An investigation into their indictment is pending and in such situations, presenting information of an underdeveloped story in an incomplete and misleading fashion amounts to irresponsible journalism.

About the Author

Pooja Chaudhuri is a senior editor at Alt News.