On July 23, 2023, Shahadat Sheikh, a 36-year-old man who was allegedly arrested in an arms act case, died at the Netaji Subhash Palace Police Station in Northwest Delhi. Sheikh was alleged to be involved in more than 18 criminal cases, according to the police officials.
Shahadat was to be released the next day after being produced in court, but was found dead. The police said the sentry noticed Shahadat breathing heavily at around 6.30 a.m. and informed the duty officer.
“The accused was rushed for medical examination to Bheem Rao Ambedkar Hospital immediately. He was admitted to the hospital, where the doctors declared him dead. We are conducting an inquiry into the cause of the death. The staff will be questioned,” said the DCP.
Shahadat resided in the Jahangirpuri area of Delhi’s H-block with his wife and two children. He also worked at a nearby parking lot. As investigations into his death are ongoing, a committee has been established to examine the circumstances surrounding the incident. Having performed the last rites on July 27, his family members are now in a state of immense grief and shock, claiming that Shahadat was subjected to severe torture and was brutally murdered.
Shahadat’s niece Sana, who is aged 23, recounted the incident where her uncle was apprehended without any communication, and despite numerous inquiries, the family was not provided with any explanation for the reason behind Shahadat’s detention.
“On July 21, during dinner, my uncle was taken into custody. Around 8:30 PM, when my family arrived at the police station, we inquired about the reason for our uncle’s detention. Initially, the authorities denied any arrest and claimed that nobody had been taken into custody. Even upon asking again and again, they remained silent and instructed us to sit quietly in a corner,” Sana told Patriot.
Despite waiting for three hours, no explanation was provided, and around 3:00 in the morning, the family pleaded with the officer present at the police station to release Shahadat.
“In response, the official made an unethical proposition, saying, ‘Give me one lakh rupees, and I’ll set him free’.”
However, the family explained that they come from a modest background and could not afford such a sum.
“I also expressed my aunt’s growing concern and urged for his release, but was again instructed to remain seated in the corner,” she further added.
“The next day, we were told that he had to be produced in front of the judge. We couldn’t do anything about that either, and in court as well, the police only asked for custody of my uncle and not the other four convicted.
“The next day we were told that Shahadat is unwell and he’s been admitted to the Bheem Rao Ambedkar Hospital. After visiting the hospital, we couldn’t find any trace of Shahadat. We looked around the hospital twice, and then suddenly a police official informed us that he had passed away,” she said.
Shahadat’s brother Sheikh Sanwar criticised lack of transparency.
“How can we believe that Shahadat’s death was not a murder? Just add up the sequence of events and you yourself will raise suspicion,” he said.
Initially, no information was provided, but later they ‘were asked for a bribe’, followed by a request for police remand exclusively for his brother.
“Suddenly, we were informed that my brother had passed away. All these incidents don’t seem to make sense. When my brother was taken into custody, he was perfectly healthy without any pre-existing medical conditions. The sudden deterioration of his health leading to his demise the next day raises doubts,” he said.
Sanwar alleges that something went wrong in the police custody, but the exact cause remains unknown.
Shah Alam, 39, another niece of the deceased, asserted that they will seek justice for what happened to Shahadat and expressed hope that the committee formed will deliver justice to them.
“I strongly believe that the entire incident was a premeditated attempt to target minorities, a disturbing trend that has been increasingly prevalent in recent times.”
Shah Alam also pointed out that although multiple news channels came to them on the day of the incident, recorded their statements, and left, there has been a lack of discussion on the matter in the media.
He feels that there is an intentional effort to hide the issue. Moreover, he reveals that Shahadat had been facing continuous harassment from the police since 2019.
He further contended that the news circulating about 18 FIRs (First Information Reports) and the discovery of pistols is merely a tactic employed to divert attention from the misconduct of the officials involved, serving as a cover-up for the mess they created.
“If all the complaints are true then kindly disclose the specifics of these complaints,” added Shahadat’s sister-in-law.
She expressed their willingness to accept the possibility that Shahadat might have committed a crime.
“However, I strongly criticise the manner in which he was apprehended without any explanation, only to be informed of his demise the next day.”
With the formation of a committee and an impending investigation, she acknowledged uncertainty about the outcome but expressed the painful truth that none of it can bring Shahadat back.
“Who’s going to bear the burden of his two young sons, who will now bear the burden of their education expenses.
“How are we going to respond when the children grow up and inquire about the absence of their father?” she asks.