Three eyewitnesses have accused Harveer Singh Bhati, a sub-inspector of Okhla Police Station, Delhi, of murder during the northeast Delhi communal violence in February 2020, reported The Caravan.
Rukhsana Khatoon, Malka, and Shehnaz, residents of the Kardampuri area of Northeast Delhi accused Bhati of shooting and killing a local man named Mohammed Furkan on 24 February 2020 at the Kardampuri protest site during the unrest in northeast Delhi. Furkan’s post-mortem report had confirmed two bullets, in his left thigh and his lower abdomen.
Kardampuri is a Muslim majority neighbourhood of northeast Delhi and was witness to large scale communal violence in February last year, along with other areas like Maujpur and Gokulpur. Kardampuri lies on the opposite side of the Hindu majority neighbourhood of Yamuna Vihar.
During the anti CAA, NRC protests that took place across India, a protest site was set up in Kardampuri near a foot-over bridge that lies between the area and Yamuna Vihar.
Khatoon, Malka, and Shehnaz were active participants of the protests and all three of them told The Caravan that they were less than 20 feet away from Furkan when he was shot and killed by Bhati.
A video filmed near the Kardampuri bridge, soon after Furkan was shot, shows people rushing him to hospital and can be heard saying, “Look, the policeman shot him” and “The government has become so cowardly that it has started shooting us now.” Furkan was declared “brought dead” at 5:30 pm on February 24 at the Guru Tegh Bahadur hospital, in Dilshad Garden.
Eyewitnesses told The Caravan that earlier on that day, a mob of men with visible Hindu religious symbols on them entered the Kardampuri protest tent. Later, 40-50 security personnel charged in the direction of the tent, firing tear gas shells.
“As they reached the nearby cremation ground, everyone started running. It was mayhem. I saw from the foot overbridge on the main road that RSS men were standing on the cars near Shiv Mandir,” Malka told the Caravan.
She added that as the rioters were chanting “Jai Shree Ram” she assumed they were from RSS. This group of men was joined by uniformed men who attacked the protest site with tear gas canisters. A video circulated during the time confirms the same.
“The rioters set our tent on fire. These rioters did not even spare the elderly women, who had shielded themselves under the blanket. They flung our copies of the Holy Quran, rosaries, and prayer rug in the burning fire,” said Khatoon.
Malka told The Caravan that she was among the women who hid in the portable toilets near the tent. As Malka exited the toilet, she saw the tent on fire and tried to save the copies of the Quran. She got in a tussle with a uniformed officer who threw the holy texts and her belongings into the fire. A tear gas canister fell at her feet and she was struggling to breathe due to smoke. Furkan saved her and went to salvage the copies of holy texts. As soon as Furkan moved to the site, the officials moved to attack him, they said.
Malka and Shahnaz accused two police officials of attacking Furkan—Bhati, who was posted at Jyoti Nagar at the time, and Sonu, a constable from the same station. Both of them were regularly stationed at the protest site.
Malka and Shehnaz said that they both saw Sonu pushing/ tripping Furkan to the ground and Bhati firing at him twice. Khatoon also confirmed she saw Bhati shooting Furkan but couldn’t recall Sonu tripping him. All three witnesses said that Bhati fired from the front, “Saamne se goli maari hai,” they said.
FIR filed by the Delhi Police has been found to have severe inconsistencies. The complaint filed the next day by Furkan’s brother Mohammed Imran says that he saw his brother get injured due to violence and stone-pelting at the protest site. However, Imran wasn’t even present at the site on that day and says that the FIR has been fabricated. Another person with the same name, who works as a tutor in the area was the one who took Furkan to the hospital that day.
The police filed its charge sheet in June accusing four Muslim men of the murder. These men were subject to assault in police custody and were forced to sign on blank papers which were later used to fabricate their statements. Two of them who are only 20 years old, still remain in jail.
Inconsistencies can also be found in the medical reports of Furkan. The post-mortem report prepared at the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital on 26 February, says that Furkan was shot twice—in the left lower abdomen and the middle of his left thigh. The Medico-Legal Certificate, prepared at the same hospital on the day of his death, mentions none of the bullet wounds, while the FIR, which was registered after the MLC, mentions only one.
Furkan’s family is still fighting for justice. “Though this FIR is a lie, it holds two truths. One that my brother was shot, two that he died,” said Imran. He was pressured into filing it as the police told him that it was the only way for him to get his brother’s body. Furkan is survived by his wife Firdaus and two children. Firdaus was pregnant last February but the trauma caused by her husband’s death resulted in her losing the child. Firdaus’s father died of a heart attack later that year.
Harveer Singh Bhati, however, remains unpunished. He was transferred months after the incident from Jyoti Nagar to Okhla and hasn’t yet responded to the allegations against him.
No officials from Delhi Police – Police commissioner, the deputy commissioner of southeast Delhi, the public relations officer, the station house officer of Okhla police station, the investigating officer in Furkan’s case, and Bhati – has responded to queries from The Caravan in Furkan’s case.