Muslim teenager Mudassir Alam was killed in a protest rally in India. His family wants answers

Written by Javed Iqbal

Footage posted on social media of the June 10 protest shows 15-year-old Mudassir Alam raising his fist while the crowd sings, “Long live Islam.”

Several shots are fired and Mudassir falls to the ground.

“He is dead!” shouts a spectator as people try to stop the blood from a wound to the teenager’s head.

Mudassir later died at the hospital, one of two young men killed in the Ranchi clash – the latest victims of a deeper religious divide between India’s Hindu majority population and the Muslim minority community.

The June 10 protest was one of several demonstrations that erupted around the country after two former spokesmen for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made derogatory remarks about Islam’s prophet Mohammed.

Mudassir’s grieving father, Parvez Alam, does not know who killed his teenage son, but in a police complaint he accused officers of “randomly firing AK-47s and pistols aimed at the Muslim mob.”

He claimed that at least three other men fired bullets at protesters from the roof of the Hindu Shree Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple near where Mudassir stood on the street.

“Because of shots fired from the temple roof and by the police, there was a chaotic situation and a bullet hit my son in his head,” Alam said in his complaint.

Ranchi Deputy Commissioner Chhavi Ranjan confirmed that Mudassir and another man, Sahil Ansari, were later pronounced dead at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Science by “bullet injuries” sustained during the protest.

Ansari’s father, Mohammad Afzal, told CNN that his 20-year-old son was on his way home from work selling cell phones in the market when “police opened fire.”

Sahil Ansari, 20, was also fatally shot during protests in Ranchi.

Ranjan said that “the police opened fire because the mob was violent and the first firing happened from the mob,” but he would not comment on which mob he was referring to, saying the case was under investigation.

Amol Homkar, Inspector General of Jharkhand Police, said a committee had been formed with two members to investigate the incident and a special investigation team from Ranchi Police is also conducting investigations. Homkar said 12 people were injured during the protest and 30 have been arrested in the days since, though he did not specify any charges.

CNN has been investigating footage from the protest, which at times shows police being firing indiscriminately at protesters, none of whom – including Mudassir – appear to be carrying firearms.

The boy’s father says he wants answers.

“I lost my only child to this violence,” Alam said. “He was only 15, not even an adult.”

The shooting

Father and son were working at the family’s fruit stall on Mahatma Gandhi Main Road, a main thoroughfare through Ranchi, as protesters gathered after Friday prayers, Alam told CNN.

“I was removing my fruit kiosk to avoid damage due to protests,” he said. “Mudassir helped me.”

Alam described his son as a “very polite boy” who, like many teenagers his age, loved to make TikTok videos and take pictures on his cell phone.

In a report to Ranchi police, filed two days after his son’s death, Alam said he saw a “mob” from the “Muslim community” moving north along the main road, and when they reached Shree Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, Mudassir stopped say to them.

Alam claimed that the men standing on the roof of the temple started throwing stones at the protesters, firing shots into the crowd.

Video inside the Shree Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, verified by CNN, shows several people hiding on the ground floor, including police officers.

Above the sound of projectiles hitting the building, a woman’s panicked voice says, “Everyone is throwing stones at the temple. The administration is trying to stop it … but they can not.” Through the security screens of the temple, protesters can be seen throwing stones.

Another video shows crowds outside throwing stones at the temple before shots are fired. It is not clear who fired the shots, but the crowd is seen carrying an unidentified man away whose white clothes appear to be stained with blood.

Towards the end of the video, police with weapons are seen walking towards the Muslim protesters who have withdrawn from their position outside the temple.

Under India’s criminal justice law, police officers can use “force” to disperse what they consider to be an illegal assembly.

Irfan Ansari, a Muslim lawmaker from India’s Congress party who is part of the ruling coalition in the state, questioned why police fired bullets at the crowd, saying he would demand the prime minister order a judicial inquiry.

“The ranchi incident has put the state to shame,” Ansari wrote on Twitter. “It’s the job of the police to protect, not to shoot.”

Muslims feel targeted

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party came to power in 2014, Muslims say they have been treated unfairly by a government committed to policies that favor Hindus.

India’s 220 million Muslim population is far outnumbered in a country of 1.4 billion people, and although India claims to be a secular country, many Muslims say they live in fear.

The recent comments from former BJP representatives about the Prophet Mohammed did not only anger Muslims in India. At least 15 nations with Muslim majorities condemned the remarks, and some demanded a diplomatic response from Indian ambassadors.

Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar on Saturday told a town hall held by CNN-affiliated News-18 that the comments did not reflect the views of the BJP.

“What was said was not the position of the party. The party made it very clear and took action,” Jaishankar said.

“Some countries were concerned about it. They are trading with us, we are their image of India. Countries that had concerns understand well that this was not the position of the government,” he added.

But high-level diplomacy has failed to ease anger on Indian streets, with comments sparking protests in several major cities. In some places, Muslims say they have been exposed to speaking out.

Heavy equipment is being used to demolish the house of a Muslim man whom state authorities in Uttar Pradesh accused of being involved in riots.
Activists in the northern BJP-ruled state of Uttar Pradesh, ruled by the Hindu priest who became politician Yogi Adityanath, accused the authorities of punish Muslims allegedly involved in the protests by destroying their houses.

Authorities defended their actions, saying they were targeting homes built illegally on public land whose owners had ignored repeated demolition notices.

But the victims told CNN that only Muslim homes had been destroyed and that no warning was given until their properties were reduced to rubble.

In a statement last week, Amnesty accused the Indian government of “selectively and viciously cracking down on Muslims who dare to express their views and peacefully express their disagreement with the discrimination they face.”

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Aakar Patel, chairman of the Amnesty International India Board, told CNN that the authorities “violate Indian law and Indian obligations under various treaties that the country has signed.”

“What India is doing is without the justice process that is going through it, (it) is targeting Muslims, targeting their homes, even shooting them – all under the pretext of trying to ensure that there is no violence on the streets, ” he said.

CNN has contacted Adityanath’s office but has not received a response. In a tweet on June 11, his media adviser shared one photograph on Twitter by a yellow bulldozer tearing down a property and writing, “Remember, every Friday is followed by a Saturday.”

The family demands answers

In the family’s modest home in Ranchi last Wednesday, women surrounded Mudassir’s grieving mother, Nikhat Parveen, and wiped tears from her eyes as she cried.

Parveen told CNN that Mudassir had called her after he finished helping his father say he was coming home. “He put down his phone and then he died,” Parveen said.

She said her son was waiting for the results of his high school diploma, and on Tuesday they found out he was awarded equal As for five of his six-year 10 subjects.

“He used to tell me, ‘I want to get a government job. I want to get far in life,'” Parveen said.

“He was incredibly intelligent … he was loved by everyone. He’s not here today and everyone has tears in his eyes.”

His father, Alam, said police have so far frustrated his efforts to file an FIR – an initial information report – which is required to launch an official investigation.

“We have tried to take legal action, but the authorities are not cooperating,” he said. “We lodged a complaint with the police, but they did not register it.”

Homkar declined to comment on the allegation and Alam’s other allegations, awaiting the outcome of the investigation.

Alam said the death of his son has deprived his family of their future.

“I am (a) poor worker, me and my son (now dead) would sell fruit and vegetables. He was the only son and future of my family,” he wrote in his police report.

Mudassir’s mother asked why shots should be fired on a busy street where children, like her son, were present.

“Does anyone have the right to do that? Do the police or anyone else have the right to fire shots like this?”

When asked what she wanted from the police, she said emphatically, “I want justice for my son.”

CNN’s Arpit Goel and Teele Rebane contributed to this report.

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Javed Iqbal

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