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2013 Muzaffarnagar Riots: Witness Killed just Few Weeks Ahead of the Court Hearing, Police Files FIR

The deceased, Ashbab, was the witness of the murder of two of his brothers, named Shaheed and Nawab, during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. Just two weeks before his next hearing in the ongoing trial, he was shot dead by two assailants who were riding on a motorcycle and opened indiscriminate fire on Ashbab, who was delivering milk to a shop at the Indira Murti stretch in the district.

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A 35 year old man, named Ashbab, was shot dead on the busy streets of Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) Muzaffarnagar on Monday night, reported ANI. He was the witness of the murder of two of his brothers, named Shaheed and Nawab, during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. Just two weeks before his next hearing in the ongoing trial, he was shot dead by two assailants who were riding on a motorcycle and opened indiscriminate fire on Ashbab, who was delivering milk to a shop at the Indira Murti stretch in the district.

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First Information Report (FIR) under Section 302 (murder) has been filed in the nearby Khatoli police station against unknown persons. “We received information of a shooting near Agarwal Dairy in Khatauli, where Asbab had come to deliver milk. He lived a couple of kilometres away in Islamnagar with his family,” said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Sudhir Kumar Singh, Muzaffarnagar, quoted TOI.

Ashbab’s brothers, Nawab and Shaheed, were killed in a neighbouring village during the Muzaffarnagar riots in September 2013. While an FIR was filed at the Mansurpur police station against the unknown persons, on February 25 this year, Ashbab confirmed the names of six accused in connection with the murders, while recording a statement before a magistrate in the Muzaffarnagar district court. The next hearing in the court was due on March 25.

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According to a report by TOI, Ashbab’s lawyer Nazir Ali said that Ashbab was the key witness in the case and the next hearing was to be held on March 25. Ashbab was intimidated to compromise in the case, however, he refused to agree to the offer, additionally, went ahead to file a police complaint at the nearest police station. Ashbab’s father told TOI that Ashbab was under constant threat.

This all began in the year 2013, where clashes between the Hindu Jats and Muslims resulted in riots in UP’s Shamli and Muzaffarnagar, which lasted for about a month ranging August 2013 to September 2013. About 62 people, including 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus, reportedly died in the violence leaving 93 injured and above 50,000 people were displaced.

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The main cause of the riots is the incidents which took place sequentially after a traffic accident and an eve-teasing incident. According to the first incident, the cause was a minor traffic accident involving some youths which then got out of control when it eventually took on religious overtones. In the second incident, a girl from the Hindu Jat community was allegedly harassed in an eve-teasing incident by one Muslim youth in Kawal village. In retaliation, the cousins of the girl, Sachin Singh and Gaurav Singh, killed the boy named Shahnawaz Qureshi. The two brothers were then lynched by a Muslim mob. The UP police took cognizance of the case and arrested eleven accused of the girl’s family for allegedly killing the Muslim youth.

According to police records, Gaurav and Sachin at first fought with Shahnawaz over a motorcycle accident. While it has been widely reported that the fight was then escalated when Shahnawaz eve- teased Gaurav and Sachin’s cousin sister, the FIR in the murder makes no mention of sexual harassment or molestation.

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The riots have been described as “the worst violence in Uttar Pradesh in the recent history”, where army was deployed in the state. Supreme Court held the Akhilesh Yadav led Samajwadi Party guilty of negligence in preventing the violence to take place and ordered it to immediately arrest all those who were accused in the violence. The court also held the Central government responsible for it’s failure to provide intelligence inputs to the Samajwadi Party-governed state government in time to help sound alerts.