New Delhi: The Haryana police has come under fire for conducting an alleged illegal raid at a prominent human rights activist’s house in the Mewat region of the state.
On June 19, when Mohammad Arif – the state coordinator of Aman Biradari, a civil society group working to promote communal harmony – was away on a fact-finding visit in a nearby village, the Haryana police raided his house in Tain village near Nuh. The police alleged it had information that Arif had stored illegal weapons. However, police did not find any contraband in Arif’s house.
The police action has since come under the scanner as the raid was conducted without any complaint and a search warrant. Since no female police officers accompanied an all-male team, civil rights groups have also criticised the Haryana police for breaching procedures.
Mewat has witnessed a series of communally-violent incidents and alleged fake encounter killings of Muslims over the last few years. The raid has, therefore, assumed significance, as Arif has been leading independent investigations into at least five, alleged fake encounters and one custodial death in the region recently.
Civil rights groups have alleged that the police action appears to be vindictive with the sole purpose of intimidating Arif as he has been probing the role of police officials.
Speaking to The Wire, Arif said, “On 19 June, I and a few colleagues from Aman Biradari had left at 8 in the morning for a fact-finding mission to Punhana, a town near Nuh. I received a call from one of my friends that the police was raiding my house. I was worried because only my mother, my wife and my brother’s daughter were present in the house. When I called my mother, she said that the police was alleging that I had stored illegal arms in my house and that they were using abusive language.”
“The raid was led by assistant sub-inspector of Tain, Abid Hussain, and around three or four other policemen. There were no women officers. They searched every bit of the house and found nothing. I do not have any problem with the police conducting raids if it follows proper procedures. I was amazed because not a single complaint has been filed against me in all these years. How can the police conduct such a raid without any search warrant or a complaint?” he asked.
Arif and his supporters sat on a dharna on June 20 demanding that the police personnel should be booked for conducting an illegal raid. It is then that he received a call from deputy superintendent of police of Tauru, Virender Singh, suggesting that he file a police complaint. “I told the DSP that how can he suggest filing a complaint at the same police station whose officers conducted the raid?” Arif said.
Virender Singh, however, told The Wire, “If Arif wishes to file a complaint at the nearby Nuh police station or even at the SP’s office, we will conduct an inquiry into the incident. But he has to come forward to file a complaint first.”
Meanwhile, civil society activists have written letters of complaint to both the National Human Rights Commission and the Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
“Mohd. Arif is a frontline human rights defender and activist working with Aman Biradari where he is providing socio-legal support to the families of lynching victims as well as those who lost their lives in police encounters. He has an impeccable human rights record working for the Mewat community on various human rights issues including education of girl children, rural digital empowerment, entitlements and more recently raising the issue of lynching and alleged false encounters by police before various forums including human rights commissions, police officials and the courts,” the letter written to the chief minister by five eminent activists – John Dayal, Navsharan Singh, Natasha Badhwar, Harsh Mander, Priya Ramani, Amitabh Basu – stated.
The letter further added, “It is feared that through these illegal means (raids), attempts are being made to silence Mohd Arif’s voice against lynchings and illegal encounters and also falsely implicate him in legal cases which could lead to criminal charges being filed against him, and even his incarceration and assault on his reputation. We hope that you will take the strictest action against the errant officials, and seek a categorical assurance that he would be protected under all circumstances, as would be his family and his reputation.”
Suroor Mander, an advocate and an Aman Biradari activist, told The Wire, “Because of Arif’s unflinching efforts to secure justice for some of the lynching and false encounter victims, he has become an important voice in the Mewati community. People are now approaching him to give testimonies against illegal police action. Arif is a stickler for procedures and rules. He was the one who has been leading the protests, speaking to the victim’s families and has been providing legal and social support to them. Clearly, the raid was an intimidation tactic.”