Three Students Allege Aligarh Rail Police Attacked Them For Being Muslims

© BOOM Live

By Arbab Ali

Twenty two-year-old Sahidul Islam had gone to drop off his friends at the Aligarh railway station and returned with visible injuries. He alleged that two Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel detained him and his friends for not carrying a platform ticket and beat them up so brutally that their batons broke.

Shahidul, student of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), says this was a case of hate crime. While two officers have been suspended, the officials deny that this was a communally targetted attack.

What Happened?

At around 10:30 PM on 22 June, Shahid left his hostel in Aligarh, accompanied by a few batchmates and friends to drop off his friends who had come visiting from West Bengal to appear for entrance exams at the AMU.

Shahidul, a Masters student at the Department of Arabic at the AMU, was accompanied by Sadiqul Islam, 26, an AMU student and 24-year-old Abdullah, a student from the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

As they were leaving the station after seeing off Shahidul's friends, an RPF official asked them to show their platform tickets that they did not have. He was joined by another RPF officer who allegedly started abusing the students.

"We Were Assaulted For Being Bengali Muslim"

The RPF officers, he said, then forcefully took them to a secluded spot outside the railway station. "There were no CCTV cameras there. Sadiq bhai told him to take us back to the platform and do their questioning there," Shahidul narrated. When the AMU student also voiced the same sentiment as his friend Sadiq, one of the officers, he said pulled him by the collar and pushed him inside the washroom.

Abdullah, a student from JNU, rushed into the washroom to rescue his friends. Shahidul said two more RPF officers joined in, seized their phone and started beating them up brutally inside the washroom.

In a conversation with BOOM, Shahidul said they were thrashed by the officials because of their Bengali and Muslim identities. "They behaved as if we were infiltrators," he said. "Ye Mamata ka raj nahi hai, Baba ka raj hai. Kis tarah se rehena chahiye yaha ye hum sikhaate hain (Mamata doesn't rule here, Baba (a term used for Uttar Pradesh chief minister) rules here. Here we teach people how to behave)," one of the RPF officer allegedly told Shahidul and his two friends.

"They asked us questions like how many more of us are here in Aligarh, what is our room numbers and they were saying they will ask SSP (Senior Superintendent of Police) to raid our rooms," he said, adding that this was all because of their Bengali Muslim identities.

The trio hail from Malda in West Bengal.

"They Hit Us So Hard, Their Baton Broke"

"They beat us just like in the 'Saharanpur video'," recalled Shahidul, referring to the 32 second video clip allegedly from Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh where two policemen are seen repeatedly hitting nine men with lathi (long baton), in a room, while the men plead for mercy. The video was shared by BJP legislator Shalabh Mani Tripathi following protests demanding the arrest of Nupur Sharma for her comments on the Prophet.

Shahidul said that they were beaten so harshly that the officer's baton broke. "Sadiq bhai was repeatedly hit on his shoulder by the baton and they punched me on the face and kicked me several times," the 22-year-old said.

When Shahidul, Sadiqul and Abdullah did not return to the parking area, their batchmates, Ajmal Hossain and Safiqul Islam, both 22-years-old, got worried and called their seniors and the AMU's proctorial staff.

It was only after the proctorial staff of the AMU reached the railway station and intervened, Shahidul and his friends were let off. Universities such as Jamia Millia Islamia, JNU and AMU have a proctorial staff who maintain law and order in the university and act as liaison between university and the district administration.

"When the proctorial staff asked the railway authorities as to why we were beaten, one of the officers admitted to assaulting us and seemed completely unapologetic or afraid of the consequences," Shahidul said.

A day after the incident, students at AMU staged a protest demanding action against the officials involved in the incident.

Shahidul alleged that Abdullah was beaten the most because of his visible Muslim personality. "He was wearing a kurta-pyjama and had a khat (long beard). When Abdullah bhai did not utter a single word, why did they beat him?" he asked. Abdullah suffered injuries on his right shoulder, neck and face. Shahidul told this correspondent that Abdullah does not wish to speak to the press fearing reprisal from the authorities.

On Twitter, a PhD scholar from AMU , Momin Ali, shared videos of injury marks of the three students.

The video was spread quickly on social media platforms, shared by journalist and activists. Anuja Jaiswal, assistant editor at Times of India, tweeted the images of the injured boys and demanded action against the officials. Superintendent of Police, Government Railway Police replied, "The above case is related to RPF Aligarh, taking cognizance of RPF with AMU students, Soni Prempal Singh and K. Kuldeep Singh Resub Aligarh has been suspended with immediate effect. The entire episode is being investigated by RPF."

BOOM accessed and verified photos and videos that show injuries sustained by the trio.

Shahidul also said that none of the RPF officers involved in the assault had any name plate on their shirts.

Visible Injuries, Two RPF Officers Suspended

Two RPF personnel have been suspended, confirmed Inspector Rajeev Verma, RPF's Station House Officer (SHO). "We have suspended both the officials, Prem Pal Singh, shift incharge (SI), responsible for overlooking the staff and constable Kuldeep who hit them with the baton," he said.

The SHO said that both the officers have been suspended from the Aligarh RPF and shifted 50 kilometers away to Tundla. "They have been shifted so that they do not 'influence' and 'interfere' in the investigation," he said, adding that they will not work there but only register their attendance. A preliminary inquiry is underway. As soon as the report of the inquiry is submitted to the Headquarter, they will be chargesheeted under RPF 153, rules under which Railway Protection Force is governed," he said.

Both the officials will be charge-sheeted,the SHO added .

Verma said that the students had injury marks on their bodies but he refuted the allegations that the assault was communally motivated or happened because of their Bengali Muslim identity. "They are exaggerating," he said.

BOOM reached out to Prof. Wasim Ali, AMU proctor, for his comment on the incident. His phone was unreachable. A WhatsApp message with queries was sent to the proctor. This story will be updated when he responds.

Aligarh has witnessed several incidents of communal violence in the past. In October 2021, Aamir, a resident of Bisavanpur Silla village in Aligarh and hawker selling clothes was beaten by two men when he refused to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Pakistan Murdabad'. However, the police tweeted that the scuffle was due to an argument over the cost of the clothes and not communally motivated. The city also saw Hindu-Muslim riots in 2006 leading to the death of six people.

Arbab Ali is an Independent Journalist based in New Delhi.