Even as the deputy chief minister, RR Patil, said this week that he would personally look into the alleged murder by policemen of 16-year-old Shahnawaz Wagle during riots in Mumbai in 1993, his own state government has told the Supreme Court that the incident did not merit any further investigation.
The boy’s parents have been trying for 14 years to get the police to register a case, but have failed despite the existence of an eyewitness account by Shahnawaz’s sister Yasmin, now a housewife settled in Kuwait. She told the Srikrishna Commission — the panel that inquired into the riot violence — that a team of policemen had pulled her brother out from their chawl, beat him with rifle butts, and then shot him dead.
“I do not even know the government has closed the case,” said Taher Wagle, the father who had written to Patil last year about his son, with the weary helplessness of riot victims who have been struggling for 15 years to get a modicum of justice.
“The last time I met the police in November, they told me they are still looking into the matter.”
Yet in its response to a petition filed in the Supreme Court 10 years ago by civil rights groups urging that state ensure justice for riot victims, the state government said the local police had closed the investigation.
“PI (Police Inspector) Baig…conducted further investigation. No evidence was brought forward to show that the [sic] Shahnawaz Wagle was killed by Police. As such further investigation has been closed. PI Wahule of Byculla police station was neither responsible nor related to the killing of Shahnawaz Wagle,” the affidavit said.
Shahnawaz’s death is among hundreds of cases that the state government promised to examine in September 2007, pushed by public pressure. It even formed a Special Task Force (STF) comprising senior bureaucrats and policemen. But Inspector Rajendra Nagbhide of the Byculla Police station, who wrote to the father Taher in December, asking him to meet the police said, “Wagle replied that he wanted to handle the matter through his advocate. So we left it at that, and gave our report to the STF. There is no more investigation from our side.”
Taher’s lawyer, advocate Shakil Ahmed, defended his advice. “We want criminal cases, not administrative enquiries by the police,” he said. “The police have met the Wagles several times in these 15 years, but never took the basic step of a criminal complaint. What is the meaning of calling them again and again?”