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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

One dispappearance too many

The Milli Gazette Online 

Mumbai policemen may find it difficult to wriggle out of the Khwaja Yunus case as the body of evidence of their complicity grows with every passing day

Torture, extrajudicial killing, disappearances and custodial deaths are not the stuff that democratic societies are made of. Still these are the dominant leitmotif of life in India today.

The protest by hundreds of policemen and their wives before a Mumbai court last fortnight showed that the police, charged with the murder of Khwaja Yunus, a 26-year old engineer, were unrepentant. Along with the protesting policemen and their wives there were a large number of rabble rousers from the Shiv Sena and VHP.

Khwaja Yunus The sole bread earner of his family Khwaja Yunus was arrested on December 23, 2002 near his home in Parbhani, 500 km from Mumbai. He was brought to Mumbai and on January 3, 2003 charged under POTA for ‘involvement’ in Ghatkopar bomb blasts. Three others were also arrested along with him and booked under POTA. One of them was Dr Abdul Mateen, an MD in forensic medicine and toxicology.


That resort to extrajudicial killing is a norm rather than aberration is evident from the "title" of Inspector Praful Bhosle, one of the four accused policemen arrested on March 5. Bhosle is called an "encounter specialist", which in simple terms means extrajudicial executioner. This is possibly the worst example of the disdain the police have for the due process of law.

However, from the initial proceedings of the celebrated Khwaja Yunus case it seems that the encounter specialist carried out one murder too many. Among the four arrested were Inspector Rajaram Vhanmane assistant inspector Hemant Desai and assistant inspector Ashok Khot.

The sole bread earner of his family Khwaja Yunus was arrested on December 23, 2002 near his home in Parbhani, 500 km from Mumbai. He was brought to Mumbai and on January 3, 2003 charged under POTA for ‘involvement’ in Ghatkopar bomb blasts. Three others were also arrested along with him and booked under POTA. One of them was Dr Abdul Mateen, an MD in forensic medicine and toxicology.

On January 7, 2003 Yunus "disappeared" from police custody and the police tried to fabricate an incredible story. Inspector Sachin Vaze later filed an FIR saying that while a police party was taking Yunus to Ahmadnagar the police jeep carrying them turned turtle, the policemen became unconscious and the handcuffed Yunus escaped, carrying with him the police logbook. Interestingly, none of the policemen got hurt in the accident.

A judicial enquiry conducted by the Special POTA Judge found the FIR filed by Vaze prima facie untrue. The case was handed over to the CID which has so far arrested eight police officers on the charge of murdering Yunus and disposing of his body to destroy evidence.

The forged FIR was not the only ruse the police adopted to cover up the alleged crime. In mid-2004, a Crime Branch officer floated the rumour that he had received a letter from the Abu Dhabi police asking for Yunus’s description. The CID have found this also to be a cock and bull story concocted by the police to show that Yunus, who had a job in Dubai, was an international offender.

The special POTA court issued a notice to the CID and demanded to know why the accused policemen were not booked under POTA (which would make it difficult for them to get off easily on bail.)

An important link in the case is Dr Abdul Mateen who had seen on January 6, 2003 Yunus being beaten and kicked in the chest by the police officers while in custody. He has seen Yunus vomiting blood, which as a doctor he could guess, could be the sign of his imminent death. After that the doctor never saw Yunus. Within hours of that event, the police FIR showed Yunus to have escaped. Dr Abdul Mateen’s version was taken by the court as an FIR. He had also alleged that the Inspector Arun Borude had warned him against reporting what he had seen.

Social activists have demanded that the state government should give Yunus’s mother (his father died recently trying to bring the killers of his son to book) a compensation of at least Rs 10 lakh as the next of kin of custodial deaths in Punjab were given.

While two senior police officers of Mumbai Crime Branch accused in the case have been postponing their appearance before CID officials, the morale of their colleagues has taken a beating following arrest of 19 police officers in the fake stamps racket. Among these were former Mumbai police commissioner RS Sharma and deputy commissioner Pradeep Sawant. Six Mumbai policemen, including IPS officer Rahul Gopal, were arrested for corruption this year, while 24 were arrested last year.

It is in this melieu of police lawlessness, corruption and lack of accountability that innocent people are routinely murdered and their bodies disposed of. 

(Next Issue: Extrajudicial killing as a fact of life)

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