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Muzaffarnagar: AT LEAST three more cases related to the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, including a double murder, have ended in acquittal. In all three cases, the witnesses turned hostile.
The Indian Express had earlier reported two cases, of a double murder and a gangrape, that had ended in acquittal on February 5 and January 21, respectively, after witnesses retracted from their testimonies. Trial in 175 cases related to Muzaffarnagar riots is on, while eight cases are still under investigation.
In four of the five cases that have ended in acquittal, the government counsel was Sajid Rana. He was recently removed by the state government following uproar over the February 5 acquittal in a 2013 riot cases.
On January 12, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Bagpat district court, Lal Chandra acquitted five people accused of killing Shoaib, a 14-year-old, and Iqbal, 55, inside a mosque at Bajidpur village in the district. Three persons, Zubair, Zahid and Yameen alias Yaseen, had been injured in the attack. Seven people were named as accused following an investigation by the Special Investigation Cell last year, including Amit, Subodh, Om Prakash, Sushil, Pramod, Mantu, and a juvenile. Mantu died last year.
All the 10 witnesses refused to support the prosecution theory in court, including Shoaib’s grandfather Yameen and Iqbal’s eldest son Ilyas. The complainant in the case, Kamruddin, a relative of Shoaib and neighbour of Iqbal, also turned hostile.
“I have come to know Kamruddin took Rs 10 lakh from the family of the accused to change his statement. He also gave some money to my father Yameen to change his statement. Other witnesses also took money to give statement in favour of the accused,” says Shoaib’s father Nazim. Nazim’s younger son, Zubair (9), had also been injured in the attack.
The other witnesses included another grandson of Kamruddin, five of his neighbours, and Zubair. Nazim, who was given a government job at the tehsil office in Bagpat by the state government as compensation, and his family have not returned to Bajidpur since the incident. They live at Deshraj, around 25 km away, while Yameen stays with Nazim’s elder sister Ruksana in Baghpat. Kamruddin continues to live in Bajidpur. Nazim says he is willing to continue the court fight. “Those who have got acquitted are strong people, but if the state government promises to provide security to my family, I will file an appeal against the judgment. I lost my son.” Iqbal’s other son Mobin Hasan says he has no information why witnesses turned hostile. Hasan, who got a government job at the Bagpat Collectorate office on compensatory grounds, was in Gurgaon when the riots happened. Kamruddin refuses to speak other than saying he doesn’t remember anything.
Additional District Government Counsel Devki Nandan Sharma says, “The accused were acquitted because 10 prime witnesses, including the complainant in the case, did not support the prosecution theory and were declared hostile.” On September 8, 2013, the accused are said to have entered the Bajidpur mosque around 8.30 pm, opened fire and escaped. Shoaib and Iqbal had died in hospital later. Kamruddin had lodged an FIR against unidentified persons at the Baraut police station. In the other two cases, both of which occurred on the same day as the Baghpat incident (September 8, 2013), Fugana resident Mohammad Yameen had filed an FIR against 11 persons for forcibly entering his house, thrashing his family members, stealing their valuables, including jewellery and Rs 3 lakh in cash, while shouting religious slogans. Yameen had named 11 Hindu villagers of Fugana in the FIR registered at Fugana police station.
Police had filed a chargesheet under different charges of dacoity against them. On January 2, 2016, Additional District and Sessions Judge Arbind Kumar Upadhyay acquitted them after witnesses did not support the prosecution story. In the third case, nine persons had been booked for forcibly entering and damaging the house of Shaukeen Ali at Laak village in Muzaffarnagar while shouting slogans, opening fire and setting ablaze household items. Shakeen had registered an FIR on October 21, 2013, at Fugana police station against 15 named and 40-50 unidentified persons. Police had investigated and filed chargesheet against nine persons.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Arbind Kumar Upadhyay acquitted them on January 28 after important witnesses turned hostile. In both these cases, Sajid Rana was the government counsel.