A fortnight after they were arrested by Muzaffarnagar Police, as many as 17 students of Madarsa and Sadaat hostel, many of them minors and orphans, are still in jail.
Even as the police released the principal, Maulana Asad Raza Hussaini, who was stripped and beaten up so badly that his limbs are in plasters, the students remain in jail.
When NH catches up with the Maulana at his home, he refuses to speak. “I don’t want anything. Please get the students released,” he pleads with the political leaders who call on him to commiserate.
Still traumatised, the Maulana keeps wailing, “I failed to protect orphans in my care…I failed…”.
The Maulana is an influential and highly respected resident in the locality. He has been a teacher at the madarsa and is the caretaker of the Saadat orphanage.
On December 20, first protestors and then the police entered the premises, protestors to seek refuge from the police and policemen to round them up. When policemen began to assault his students, the Maulana went forward to shield them and was brutally beaten. They broke his limbs, vandalised his office and took him away, only to release him after 24 hours.
His son, Md Hussaini, tells NH, “He is unable to sleep at night. He feels hurt not just physically but is also heartbroken. We are all mourning with him. We find it difficult to cook or eat. My younger brother also sustained severe injuries when he tried to save him. We had never imagined that we would ever be treated like this. And while we are still absorbing the shock, all that we want is that the boys be released.”
One of the visitors interrupts to add that Muzaffarnagar Police was not releasing the boys because most of them had been beaten and tortured. “Most of them are minors and orphans. If they come out now and narrate what they have gone through, the government will have no place to hide.”
He is supported by Salman Saeed, son of former minister Saeeduzamman. “ I have represented India in horse riding and am fairly well known in the area. But I was not spared either. They vandalised my premises, set fire to vehicles and even broke the legs of one of my horses,” he says.
Saeed’s grandfather was a Member of Parliament and his father a minister. He alleges that the police were accompanied by ‘Tilakdharis’ and says there are photographs and videos to prove his point.
Muzaffarnagar Police, he says, is engaged in damage control after last month’s mayhem. Policemen are approaching the victim and warning them against lodging complaints, disclosing details to the media or seek compensation.
Saadat Hostel on Thursday was still closed. Riot Control vehicles were still stationed at Meenakshi Chowk. And there was a pall of fear as people were reluctant to speak to strangers and outsiders.
But Muzaffarnagar Police stoutly denied any torture. Reports of ‘rectal bleeding’ by some of the boys were not true, they maintained. All reports of torture, rape of minors and stopping the detainees from using urinals are ‘figments of imagination’, they held.