Preeti Sharma Menon
A few weeks back on a national television I was told to “go to Pakistan” by a Shiv Sena spokesperson. I scoffed at him and dared him to try sending me. I am secure about my nationality, I am born into it and I take it for granted.
In the early hours of 18 October 2015, a Mumbai college youth had his nationality rudely and violently challenged. A typical teenager, this Rizvi college student, fitness freak, heavily into body building competitions, had the typical swagger of a Bandra youth. All this was thrashed out of him by Mumbai Police on 18 October. For absolutely no crime, he was picked up, stripped, handcuffed, beaten up and told that he had no business living in the city he was born and brought up in – he was told by Police Inspector Pawar “to go to Pakistan”. Reason? His name is Asif Shaikh!
Unlike me, Asif has never challenged the establishment, never broken any law, is not into politics or activism. He is just a normal college kid. Can we even begin to comprehend how badly our democratic fabric has been torn apart whereby cops can pick a teenager and assault him/her all night for absolutely no reason? Forget freedom of expression and all those fine democratic rights – do we even have the right to exist? For a Muslim in Mumbai 2015, clearly not.
Asif and his friend Danish were out for spin on their bike after a late night visit to a hospitalised relative. They stopped to check a drunken man lying on road and got picked up by cops in a private car, were taken to Bandra police station and thrown into a room with another group of drunken men. When Asif demanded to know why he was being held there and said he would like to call his family, he was stripped, handcuffed and beaten with bamboos and belts for about two to three hours by PI Pawar and five or six other constables.
PI Pawar told him why he was in India and he should instead go to Pakistan. Danish managed to slyly call Asif’s uncle Umer Hasan Shaikh at 5.30 am, when the cops had taken a break from the torture. Umer reached the station at 6.15 am and demanded to know why his nephew was arrested, why was he beaten up, and why was he not being taken to a hospital.
PI Pawar realized he had crossed the line and conceded to the victims and their relatives that there was no case registered, begged forgiveness, offered medical assistance and offered money provided they kept quiet about the incident. *Typically, if anyone is arrested in cognizable offence, an FIR is registered and they are sent for a medical, taken into police custody before being presented the next morning in a Magistrate Court where the Judge decides the future. This did not happen in Asif’s case, so clearly there was no offence registered against him.
PI Pawar further claimed that he just did it in fit of rage as Asif was argumentative! Therein lies the truth of Mumbai Police – in a fit of rage they can thrash a Hindu female devotee at Lalbaug or torture a Muslim boy all night, because they don’t like arguments.
But to continue the story, Umer finally relented and told the cops he would keep quiet. So they let him take Asif and Danish and leave. *Point to be noted my Lord – if an offence had been registered against Asif then there is no way he would have been allowed to walk out of the police station without the process of medical, custody and Magistrate’s orders.
Umer took Danish to Bhabha Hospital and stated that he was beaten in police custody. That was it. An entire posse of cops descended there in vans and jeeps and began threatening and intimidating Umer all day. Asif was diagnosed and treated for fractures and multiple wounds in the Emergency Ward but out of fear of the police, the hospital refused to admit him. That’s when activists and politicians intervened, they got Asif admitted and escalated the issue.
The Mumbai Police Commissioner immediately ordered an inquiry but I can say for sure it will be a farce. The police have now made a back dated FIR on Asif claiming he attacked the cops first – this is blatant, deliberate cover up because *the point to be noted comes into play here. Moreover, I met the Commissioner with Asif’s mother on Monday evening and when he said the inquiry would be completed next day itself I was forced to point out that that was impossible because the victim’s statement had not even been recorded, so the inquiry could not have even started. The mother begged that PI Pawar be suspended as he was intimidating them but the Commissioner was unmoved. His attitude made it clear that he will give a clean chit to PI Pawar and all the other cops for sure.
Further cover up was done by BJP Spokesperson Shaina NC, who said they were picked up due to a mistaken identity in a terror case – again if that were true, *charges would have been framed and they would have been produced in Magistrate Court.
Asif is still in hospital, will probably be discharged soon but his budding body building career will suffer a huge setback as he will not be able to compete this winter. His carefree youthfulness has been snatched from him. There are countless Asif’s in India, there are worse cases where custodial deaths have taken place for no real crime. The grim truth is every time we ignore an Asif’s story we ensure another Asif happens. It’s time we all came together and said – my name is Asif and I will not go to Pakistan.
The author is a senior Aam Aadmi Party leader based in Mumbai