"He was looking to get some work on his hands but never imagined that his hand would be cut off,” says Ikram Salmani, the elder brother of Ikhlaq Salmani.
Ikraam says his brother was attacked for being Muslim. Police, though, are prima facie ruling out a ‘communal angle’, saying he was caught while trying to sexually assault a child.
Ikram says his brother, 28-year-old barber Ikhlaq, had his right hand chopped off on August 23 by two men in Panipat when he went there in search of a job. Ikram says, "He left his home in Nanauta, 33 km from Saharanpur, for Panipat. It turned dark when he reached Kishanpura, Panipat. He didn’t have any place to stay, so he decided to spend the night at a park. Two people came and they stopped him from sleeping there. They started beating him after learning his name.”
Ikram says Ikhlaq collapsed there and he needed to drink some water. He thought of getting help from people living near the park. In a semi-unconscious state, he knocked on a door, and, unexpectedly, it was opened by the two men who had beaten him at the park.
“They dragged him inside the house and beat him badly. Including two women, there were six people involved. He was beaten with sticks and they hit his head with a stone. He was bleeding and begged them to let him go but no one was ready to listen," Ikram alleges.
“They saw '786' (a representation of 'Bismillah') tattooed on his right hand and one of them said ‘let's separate this tattoo from his body’ and then they chopped off the hand with a saw. They dumped Ikhlaq at the railway tracks in Kishan Pura, thinking he was dead. The next morning, when he regained consciousness, he sought help from a passerby and informed his family."
An FIR was lodged at Chandni Bagh police station in Panipat, Haryana.
Ikram has also questioned the police’s role in the matter. "I want justice for my brother. The police are not investigating the matter properly under pressure from the state government. The police are saying my brother’s hand was cut off by a train. They are hiding real facts to make it an accident case. My brother’s life has been ruined. They not only cut off his hand, but his dreams too," he says.
Ikram says he visited the area where the incident occurred. "I went to the spot to know the truth. A few who live in that colony have accepted the fact that on the night of August 23, some people were beating a man," he claims.
However, the man who Ikhlaq's family have accused of assault, has denied the charge and alleged that Ikhlaq was involved in child trafficking. “I was sleeping next to my 7-year-old nephew in our house when Ikhlaq took him. I informed my family members that I found the child missing. We were searching for him and after walking around half a km we were shocked to see Ikhlaq was sexually harassing my nephew and both were in a state of undress," he says (name withheld to protect the identity of the minor).
On the question of Ikhlaq’s hand, he replies, "We beat him when we found him sexually assaulting the 7-year-old but Ikhlaq managed to run away from us. We did not cut his hand."
The boy's uncle also alleges that Ikhlaq broke two of his teeth and there were marks of assault on his body. The child was sent to Kundu hospital in Panipat for a medical test. When this reporter asked him to share the child's medical report for adding to this report, he replied, "I don't have the report right now. I will send it to you the next day." He's stopped responding to calls since then.
After 14 days of the incident, Randhir has registered an FIR on September 7 under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act at Chandni Bagh police station and, under section 164 of CRPC, the child’s statement has been registered in front of a magistrate.
The matter has snowballed on social media with many sharing Ikhlaq’s photos, seeking justice for him.
Inspector Ankit Nandal, who is investigating the matter, says, "Prima facie it appears the man was involved in the sexual assault of a minor boy. Bachche Bhagwan ka roop hote hain aur jooth nahi bolte (children are the human representations of God and they don’t lie). We are investigating all possible angles and whoever is found guilty will face action."