Five months after he was assaulted by a mob and forced to chant 'Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji,' Assistant Sub Inspector of Police Yunus Shaikh will return to the police force on July 21.
Shaikh relives the assault and its aftermath in this interview with Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore.
In a damning allegation, Assistant Sub Inspector of Police Yunus Shaikh, who was beaten up by a mob on the morning of February 19 at the Pangaon police station in Latur district of Maharashtra and later paraded through the village and forced to chant 'Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji' and forced to hoist a saffron flag at a disputed place near Ambedkar Chowk, tells Rediff.com's Prasanna D Zore that District Superintendent of Police Dnyaneshwar Chavan and Investigating Officer Sontakke are trying to weaken the case by diluting Section 307 (attempt to murder) slapped against the 17 accused to Section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous injury using dangerous weapons).
Shaikh, who spoke at length, was all praise for Deputy Superintendent of Police Vikas Naik, who Shaikh says, arrested 17 accused the very same day and slapped Section 307 on them but who was, unfortunately, removed from this case within 24 hours.
Shaikh narrated all the details of the attack right from the intervening night of February 18-19 when they first received a call on duty to go to Ambedkar Chowk, a disputed area where hoisting any flag was prohibited by the order of district officials till about 10.15 am on February 19 (Shiv Jayanti) till when the attack ended after DySP Naik's arrival at Pangaon police station where the attackers had brought back an injured Shaikh and had the gall to attack him and destroy police property.
Shaikh narrates how he was let down by his seniors like Police Inspector Rakh and Assistant Sub Inspector Shaikh who, claims Yunus Shaikh, did not heed his warnings seriously.
Why is Constable Awaskar the complainant and not you?
Actually, they (the police) should have made me the complainant in the attack against me, but instead made Constable Awaskar as the complainant because I was the person who was attacked that day (February 19) not only inside the police station and then in full public view, but also because my fellow policeman Awaskar ran away to save his life or was made to run away by the 100-150 mob when I was being attacked.
Awaskar does not know what happened to me in his absence between 8.30 am and 10.15 am.
My information is the attackers knew him and they took him along with them and dropped him far away from the Pangoan police chowki because the attackers wanted to attack only me.
I was posted there just a month ago, but Awaskar knew a lot of locals there because he had been there for the last four years.
Even till today (the attack took place on the morning of February 19, Shiv Jayanti) I don't know what is written in the complaint that Awaskar gave about the attack on me.
What exactly happened on February 18-19?
On the intervening night of February 18-19, at around 1.30 am Awaskar and I were posted at the disputed place near Ambedkar Chowk. The area has a mixed population of Dalits and Muslims.
Around 8 boys were carrying a 35 foot pole and a saffron flag that they had planned to hoist at a place where they were not allowed by law to do so because this was a sensitive area.
PSI Waghmare from the Renapur police station called me to inform about this event and asked us to go for bandobast there. Awaskar and I soon reached there and asked this group not to hoist the flag because it was a disputed place.
Some people had in on December 19, 2015 wanted to change the name of the place to Shivaji Chowk from Ambedkar Chowk and had also constructed a small platform there to erect the statue of Shivaji Maharaj.
This construction was later demolished under the supervision of the tehsildar and PI Bhalekar of the Renapur police station.
The matter did not end there as this group insisted on changing the name of the place from Ambedkar Chowk to Shivaji Chowk.
On the occasion of Shiv Jayanti ion February 19 they made an attempt to hoist the saffron flag at the same place to which I, under orders from my superior, and Awaskar objected and made them see reason.
The leader of the group argued with us that they had the permission to hoist the flag at the disputed site, when, in fact, they had the permission only to take out a procession and play music on loudspeakers on February 19 (Shiv Jayanti day).
The district administration or the local police station at Renapur had given them no permission to hoist a saffron flag.
But the leader of this small group continued his argument during which a police jeep with one constable, one home guard and a driver arrived at the scene following which the mob dispersed after swearing at all the policemen there.
We kept our vigil at the spot till about 5 am after which Awaskar dropped me to the Pangaon police chowki, where I used to sleep, and left for his home leaving me there.
What happened on the morning of February 19, Shiv Jayanti?
At about 7.15 am that day, a local activist Dhananjay Chavan of the Rashtrawadi Yuva Congress barged into the police station and began abusing me. He called me M$#%%^^^d.
Seven people were accompanying him when he threatened me with consequences and abused me continuously.
I would often address him as 'saheb,' so I asked him why he was abusing me. I told him that if he had any complaint against me he should go and report to my senior officer instead of abusing and threatening me inside the police station.
'You M$#%%^^^d, why did you beat my worker the previous night?' he asked me. I told him that I did not beat anybody, but had dissuaded the group from hoisting the flag at Ambedkar Chowk.
This enraged him and he threatened that he would call a Pangaon bandh that day. I told him that it was his wish and that I would report the matter to my seniors so that they can take adequate precautions to handle the situation.
He left only to come back soon after and again start abusing me. He said, 'You will soon face the consequences of what you did last night.' I again requested him to report to my seniors if they had any complaint against me.
I was the only policemen at the Pangaon police station then. He again left the police station and went around the town to enforce a bandh.
Sensing trouble I immediately rang Awaskar and told him how Dhananjay Chavan had threatened and abused me.
At around 8.15 I called up the Renapur police station where Head Police Constable Jadhav received my call. He told me that ASI Shaikh, who is in charge of Renapur, had gone out.
I asked Jadhav to immediately inform ASI Shaikh that Dhananjay Chavan was roaming in the town to enforce a bandh. I also took the mobile number of PI Rakhsahib from Constable Jadhav and narrated the entire sequence of events to him. I asked him to requisition a police force to handle the emerging situation.
Rakhsahib just told me he would look into it and abruptly disconnected the phone. I don't know if he disconnected on purpose or there was some other reason why he did not pay heed to my narration.
I was very scared. I again called the Renapur police station and ASI Shaikh answered the call. I narrated the entire incident to him in detail and asked him to immediately send a police force to Pangaon.
He also curtly told me that no force was available at that time and handed over the phone to a driver of a police van whose name was Palkar.
Palkar said what could he alone do by coming to Pangaon? I requested him to come immediately, but neither Palkar nor ASI Shaikh came to my rescue.
The day being Shiv Jayanti there should have been adequate force at the Renapur police station, but Shaikh sent nobody to Renapur.
Had my seniors taken me seriously the attack on me would not have happened. But nobody took me seriously that day. I don't know why.
Meanwhile, Awaskar arrived at the Pangaon police station 15 minutes after I had called him and informed him about the situation, during which I had spoken with Constable Jadhav, ASI Shaikh and Palkar.
When Awaskar came I wrote down in my own handwriting whatever had happened to me at the Pangaon police station in great detail in the 'Movement Registration Diary', the events that took place on the intervening night of February 18-19 and on the morning of February 19 at the Pangaon police station.
By around 8.30-8.45 am Dhanajay Chavan was back at the police station with a big mob of about 100, 150 people.
How I was beaten up and shamed for doing my duty
They entered the police chowki, beat me and began breaking the furniture, doors, windows, etc. Within five minutes they had completely destroyed the furniture, the wireless set and whatever they could find.
Then Dhananjay Chavan, along with Sandipan Chavan, (the guy in the video clip, if you have seen it, who is holding my right hand) began slapping me non-stop and also abused me.
Once the mob saw this, the crowd singled me out and pulled me outside the chowki without even touching or beating Awaskar. Only I was their target.
I do not know if I was targeted because I am a Muslim, but that is all one can conclude given that my beard gives out my identity.
They beat me like I was a mad dog. They kept pulling and dragging me outside the chowki.
Soon they started assaulting me with iron rods and big bamboo sticks. It looked like they were fully prepared for this attack.
I was hit above my left eye with an iron rod and I began bleeding immediately. I got six stitches in that area. Then they began to beat me up mercilessly with sticks on my hands and legs.
I fainted after this attack and fell on the ground. I thought I would be dead soon. After I came into my senses I tried to run away from the mob, but Sandipan Chavan hit me on my left knee with an iron rod. I again fell on the ground and began crawling. There was no trace of Awaskar when all this was happening.
After I fell on the ground, Dhananjay, Sandipan and one Saspate once again began showering me with blows and kicks and asked me to stand up. When I did, they abused me again and told me that they would teach me a lesson by making me hoist the flag at the same place where Awaskar and I had stopped them from doing so the previous night.
'Tumchya maay cha bho... tumhi khoop majle aahat... (Appeasement has emboldened you people a lot... you people need to be taught a lesson,' Dhananjay said even as they took me to the disputed place.
I begged with them to leave me, stop beating and abusing me, but the mob would have none of it. I told them I was 56 years old, but still they showed no mercy.
I have only 14 months left to retire and during my 38 years in the police service at no time did anybody raise doubts over my integrity or honesty, but here I was, treated with such contempt like never before on the morning of February 19.
They forced me to take the flag in my hand. Please hear the video clip properly. You will hear me requesting them not to treat me the way they did. I told them that I am an Indian citizen and felt proud to hold a saffron flag.
Then they threatened me to chant 'Jai Bhawani, Jai Shivaji' to which I readily agreed because as a proud Maharashtrian I feel no shame in doing so.
Please listen to the video clip and you will hear my faint voice saying what I just told you. I am not lying to you.
Despite all this they continued beating and abusing me till Ambedkar Chowk. They kept flogging, beating, hitting me for about 500 metres from the Pangaon police station to Ambedkar Chowk.
Nothing scared this crowd from beating a policeman on duty. They treated me like a mad man. They threw stones at me from behind, they kicked me.
The crowd that had gathered to see the tamasha did not intervene at all.
When we reached Ambedkar Chowk, they made me hold the flag in my hand near a board that has 'Shivaji Nagar' written on it.
From there they took me to a mosque nearby, abused me and made me hoist the flag there. 'Hoist the flag here too, you M$#%%^^^d...' I did what they asked me to do so that they are satisfied.
Then they brought me back near the chowki all the while keeping at their attacks. This started at about 8.30 and when I was brought back to the Pangaon chowki it was 10.15 am or so, but no police officer came to the rescue of their fellow police officer despite Awaskar, Jadhav, Shaikhsahib, Rakhsahib knowing what the situation was.
I don't know what kept them away from protecting a fellow police officer from the wrath of a furious crowd.
When I tried to sit inside a police jeep they attacked the jeep too. They stood guard over me for quite some time after that. When I went inside the chowki they pelted the police station with thrones.
Meanwhile, two reporters from Punya Nagari and Ekmat arrived. I pleaded with them with folded hands and asked them to help me get out of this. I pleaded with these reporters to do something even as the mob was watching the whole thing.
Finally, help arrived in the form of a phone call from DySP Vikas Naik of Chakur to Dhananjay Chavan.
I grabbed the phone from his hand and desperately cried to Naiksahib to save me from the mob. I asked him to come to the scene immediately. I sobbed like a small child.
Within 15 minutes Naiksahib came to the Pangaon police station and asked me not to worry. Ten minutes before that Rakhsahib too arrived. All the attackers were present at the police station.
After Naiksahib came I sat inside a police van and was taken to hospital for treatment.
Was any action taken against the attackers or erring police officers?
I don't know if the department has taken any action against Rakhsahib, Shaikhsahib for not providing reinforcements at Pangaon despite me warning them about the situation at Pangaon.
I only came to know that departmental inquiry is on and Rakhsahib has been shifted to the control room and later suspended.
After the situation was brought under control Naiksahib came to see me in the hospital.
Since I was under treatment I could not ask any of my seniors if the attackers were arrested. After I was discharged on February 27 I came to know that nobody was arrested.
The reason why ASI Yunus Shaikh was shifted from the general ward to the ICU
From February 19 till the night of February 22 I was treated in the general ward. But when the district administration came to know that MIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) MLA Imtiaz Jalil was coming to see me and hand over a petition to Superintendent of Police Dnyaneshwar Chavan, I was immediately rushed to the ICU ward the same night.
Why Shaikh is still not the complainant
I don't know if the police have filed a chargesheet in this attack case or not, but the fact remains that when I should have been the main complainant I am part of the case only as a witness.
I am not sure why the police are doing this, but it seems like they want to weaken the case and dilute the charges against the culprits.
It looks like District SP Dnyaneshwar Chavan and the investigating officer of the Local Crime Branch PI Sontakkesahib are responsible for weakening the case.
Let me admit that I am not very intelligent, but DySP Naik sir was transferred from this case within 24 hours of the attack.
Naik sir was doing a superb job and the one who arrested 17 accused within the 24 hours of the attack. Naik sir is a very honest and duty-bound officer.
I have heard from fellow police officers that efforts are on to dilute the Section 307 (attempt to murder) on those arrested to Section 307 (voluntarily causing grievous injury by dangerous weapons) by asking the doctor who admitted me into the hospital on February 19 that my condition was not serious at all when I was admitted to hospital.
The road ahead...
As a police officer I can only expect that those involved in attacking an officer of law on duty should be dealt with strictly so that nobody ever tries to enact what these people did to me.
I don't know if justice will be done in my case, but I sincerely hope that happens because it is just not an attack on an individual officer but on the law and order system of the state as well as on government property.
Only time will tell if I will be made a complainant and charges under which the accused are arrested are diluted or not.
I was transferred to Udgir City on March 22 after I completed my treatment at Pangaon. I feel sorry to say that the police department or the state government did not pay my treatment bills which have ran into more than Rs 100,000 till now (July 19).
Despite not being financially well-settled I have been paying for my own treatment and I am at home under medical leave. I will rejoin duty on July 21.