Death In Detention

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Known by many names, a central jail inmate, Mujeeb Siddiqi died at SKIMS, Soura on June 11 evening. Not many people know that he wore many hats, reports Tasavur Mushtaq

Mujeeb Sidiqui, son of Nazir Sidiqui, the erstwhile carpet dealer.

Mujeeb Sidiqui was in Central Jail Srinagar. He developed some health problem and was shifted to the hospital where he breathed his last, almost 24 hours later.

The Death

Doctors at SKIMS told Kashmir Life that Mujeeb had “bilateral pneumonia” and died due to “respiratory failure”.  Dr Farooq Jan, SKIMS Medical Superintendent said: “He was brought here (SKIMS) as a case of community-acquired Pneumonia. He was suspected of Covid-19 but proved to be negative. His ECG was normal; however, the primary cause of death was respiratory failure.”

His family has a different version. They claim despite being tested Covid negative, Mujeeb was admitted in the Covid ward along with other patients of the pandemic. Guarded by cops, his wife saw him on oxygen support. He had been admitted to the hospital on June 10.

However, the family was not informed officially about his “illness and admission in the hospital.” His wife received a call from a friend of Mujeeb, an SP rank officer, enquiring about his well being.

Prompted by the call, she reached the hospital. She could not find Mujeeb anywhere. “The doctor on duty said if he not in the emergency or observation ward, he might have been discharged.”

At home, a few hours later, an unknown caller asked her: “if the family has managed to get his bail.”  Not sure about the identity of the caller, she said she asked for Mujeeb. The call dropped. As she called back on the number, it was Mujeeb. “He was not speaking properly. But he was agitated and insisted on the status of his bail,” said his wife.

Moments later, she left home again with her sister-in-law and reached the hospital. For confirming the ward and to seek permission, she dialled the same number. The caller permitted and suggested her to come alone. As she entered the Covid ward, she says, “Mujeeb was on the bed wearing an oxygen mask. He again insisted on the bail.” She remembers him saying: “Am I Dawood Ibrahim that you are not able to take me away from here?”

Assuring him that “he would get the bail-in next few days,” she said she started taking a few pictures of Mujeeb for his lawyer and the tried to capture the image of investigation reports. “The men on duty stopped me saying this is not allowed,” she said. “On seeing this Mujeeb got agitated and it led to the commotion in the ward.” Witnessing the chaos, the doctors intervened, saying “he is sick, don’t agitate him further.” The wife left the ward.

As soon as she reached the home, another police officer, a friend of Mujeeb’s brother, called and informed the family about his death. “It was a shock,” said a family member. The family said there was no “official intimation, neither about his sickness nor the death.”

Commenting about the case, Tej Ram Katoch, SSP Srinagar Central Jail has said, “he was a smoker and bled from his nose a few times. Later, he was shifted to SKIMS “two days back.”

Mujeeb’s lawyer, Zubair Ahmad told Kashmir Life that his client was “subjected to intense pressure by the police, which led to his death.”

The Ordeal

As doctors declared him dead and also Covid negative, the body was not handed over to the family that night. Instead, it was taken to the police control room for further medico-legal formalities. Police, however, said the body was moved to PCR hospital mortuary because Central Jail Srinagar lacks the facility.

On June 13, morning, the family claims they were asked to sign some documents and take the body without an autopsy. The family insisted to know the cause of death and it delayed the process.

“We were kept waiting for the body since morning and in the latter part of the day we were told that this has to be done in SMHS,” said his brother, adding, “It was a deliberate attempt to delay his burial.”

Amir alleged that on the pretext of keeping the body in mortuary it was taken to PCR and kept it in the truck for the night. “My brother’s body was in the truck and not what they claim to be in the mortuary,” he told Kashmir Life.

The family later moved a petition in the court of city judge/JMIC Srinagar to get possession of the body. The court directed Superintendent Central Jail Srinagar, SSP Srinagar, SP Cyber Police Kashmir, and SHO Cyber Police Station, Srinagar to hand over the body of the deceased to the legal heirs immediately after completing all the medico-legal formalities.

“In the police report, it has been specifically mentioned that on 11-06-2020 at about 20:50 hours, a signal was received from Sr Superintendent Central Jail, Srinagar wherein Cyber Police Station Kashmir was intimated that the accused was admitted in SKIMS Soura has expired at about 19:00 hours and the dead body of the deceased was taken into possession by the Central Jail Authorities from SKIMS, Soura to carry out the legal formalities and autopsy of the dead body which is presently lying in police hospital PCR Srinagar and after completion of all Medico-legal formalities dead body will be handed over to NOKs of the deceased for last rites,” read the court order.

In the later part of the afternoon, the body was handed over to the family. He was laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard in Chattabal around 8: 30 pm.

The Arrest

Mujeeb was in Central Jail Srinagar for judicial custody. As per the police report, he was arrested on May 14, 2020, by Cyber Police Station Kashmir Zone after being accused by a lady from Jawahar Nagar of duping her. Booked under FIR 12/2020 U/S 66-D IT Act, 419, 420, 506, 201 IPC, it was alleged by the lady, as reported in the FIR that “Mujeeb pretended himself to be Ex-Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah.” He, the police report said started “chatting through WhatsApp/SMS with the complainant” and “lured her into a relationship with him on the telephone and also promised to marry her.” He “made an emotional appeal to her for marrying him and cheated her of cash.” The report mentions the lady as being “mother of a minor daughter.”

Police reports reveal that Mujeeb has confessed that he “used one Wagon R bearing registration No DL2CAC5115 for collecting the amount during evening hours from outside the residence of the complainant posing as a courier of Sh Omar Abdullah.”

On May 14, 2020, the day of his arrest, police said they recovered “cell phones, one Pashmina shawl (Noon chai colour) and cash amounting to Rs 3.37 lacs from his residence at Alamdar Colony, Rawalpora. Another raid, police said was made to recover the remaining amount. “Cyber Police Kashmir along with accused raided the residential house of accused situated at Alamdar Colony, Rawalpora, Srinagar and recovered/seized Rs 10.50 lacs from there on the instance of accused. The Wagon R car used in the commission of offences has also been seized.”

He was later sent to judicial custody. According to SP Katoch, Mujeeb was brought to the prison on “May 28.”

Family Contests

Siddiqi’s contest the police claim and rejects the accusation of the Jawahar Nagar lady as “fabricated.” His wife said police came to their home during Ramzan at around 9 pm. The date, she does not remember, however.

Given the contacts and “high profile relationships” of Mujeeb, the family took the visit as ‘normal’. “I told them to wait so that I would inform him,” said his wife, adding they were very “nice in their behaviour.” Mujeeb, the family said had slept after Sehri.

Moments later, it was revealed that the visiting policemen were from the Cyber Cell.  After meeting Mujeeb, policemen, the family said: “searched entire house and took away cash, several mobile phones and two vehicles parked outside.” Besides, they took Mujeeb along. “They told me there is nothing adverse, we are taking him along for few days,” said his wife. “But as he was bundled in the Rakshak vehicle, I could see all is not well,” she said.

For the next few days, meeting Mujeeb became very difficult, as he was almost inaccessible. “Initially they made it very difficult despite the intervention of many influential people, but later it was eased out,” said his wife. She said her detained husband maintained that the “allegations are false” and he wanted to come out “to prove his innocence.”

Mujeeb’s brother says the case was cooked up. “Omar Abdullah is not a common man living an anonymous life that anybody can claim he is Omar and it would be believed,” he said. Omar was in detention for many months since August 2019.

Mrs Mujeeb’s has a different story. She said she is running a boutique in Jawahar Nagar. “The particular lady used to come and get her clothes stitched from our boutique. Even a few times she left without making payments and in such cases, I had to visit her home and ask for the money,” she said.

Mujeeb, his wife said, met the lady at the boutique.

Admitting that the police did raid their residence, Mrs Mujeeb said: “They raided only once and took away cash, cell phones, and laptop, Ipad and two vehicles-Range Rover and Verna.” She said the Wagon R that police mentions was not with them. The second time, cops brought Mujeeb to see his daughter and there was no search, she insists.

The Verna and Range Rover, which the family claims were taken by the police were purchased from the broker. “Mujeeb had receipts in his name and not the actual papers. He had purchased them from the broker,” said one of the family members. His wife completely refuses that police recovered cash second time.

Given the fact that the particular lady, a divorcee, is relative of some police officer, a family member alleged their ward died for a crime that is cognizable under section 420, if at all he had committed that.

Mujeeb was politically connected. He had contested polls unsuccessfully. He enjoyed some influence in the police too. When he was arrested he was a protected person. In Srinagar Central Jail, however, he had changed. He was even threatening that he will expose many people. Once when she visited him in jail, his wife said: “He told me to get 15 trousers, t-shirts and 20 prayer mats because inmates have problems here.”

The Background

Loud in his life, Mujeeb, 43, died a silent death. Known to be closer to the power circles, he was born and brought up at Sheri Kashmir Colony Qamarwari. Speaking many languages fluently, his affidavit reveals that he was only “11th pass”.

“Very Cunning and intelligent person” as police report reveals, Mujeeb came into limelight in the mid-nineties. As a teenager, he took the entire Police and its security grid for a ride in Jammu where he impersonated as the nephew of the then President of India. His execution of the plan started from calling the top police brass reportedly from Delhi as an assistant of the President. Once in the city, he ensured detailed security for himself as well as a stay in a big hotel at government expense. For many days he was a “state guest” till somebody called him by name at the railway station. Alerted by the change of language, he was put behind bars, only to be released later.  After this incident, he was called “James Bond 007”.

As reported in the media, Mujeeb in later years also masqueraded as the personal staff member of National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah, duping a shopkeeper of a laptop and other computer appliances. He allegedly duped a shopkeeper in the city on the pretext of being Public Relations Officer (PRO) of then J&K minister of state home. With this, he was dubbed as Kashmir’s own Charles Sobhraj.

Seen as a support of various well-settled politicians, Mujeeb himself fought 2008 assembly elections from Batamaloo constituency, unsuccessfully. Before this, he was part of almost “everybody.” In 2008 he was with PDP and in 2015 the NC welcomed him into the party. In between, he was also seen in proximity with Usman Majeed and Syed Altaf Bukhari.

In 2015, as Greater Kashmir reported some unidentified gunmen attacked his vehicle. “My vehicle was fired upon near Bemina. However, my Personal Security Officer retaliated. It was a close shave for me,” he was quoted saying.

The Tragedy

Son of a prominent Srinagar based businessman, Nazir Siddiqi, Mujeeb was 15 when his father was gunned down by unknown gunmen along with his wife at his Qamarwari residence. Nazir had emerged a crisis manager between the security grid and militants, often managing the exchange of hostages taken by militants with detainees held in prisons.

Remembering what happened on that evening, a member of the Siddiqui family told Kashmir Life that Nazir was killed in his bedroom. Giving details he said on that day forces personnel evacuated the house of Dr Bhan, the next-door neighbour. Dr Bhan had left the valley and his home was taken over by the forces personnel.

Conscious of the development, the family at the dinner time was talking that “tonight something is going to happen vis a vis attack on the house.” Before going to sleep, one of his sons noticed “suspicious movement” and as Nazir came to know “he came out to see himself and made several rounds of his house.”

As the family slept, the midnight “burst-fire” bang was a wake-up call. All the members assembled in the lobby, a place near Nazir’s bedroom. The consensus was that the house of “Dr Bhan has been attacked.”

“A loud snoring was coming out of his room, but nobody dared to wake him up. We thought he is sleeping and let us not disturb him,” said his cousin. Everybody retired to back again.

Early morning one of the family members went to get the bread. What he heard at the baker’s shop was shocking, but he told the gathering “it is a lie”. Back home, the crowd confirmed the news. Nazir, along with his wife was in a pool of blood.  “To ensure he is dead, the attackers had cut the part of the window to open it and see he is not breathing. They knew exactly his placement of the bed.”

A carpet dealer, Nazir belonged to Chattabal. From there he had shifted to Buchpora and finally returned to Qamarwari.

Father’s death left deep scars on Mujeeb. After remaining disturbed for many years, he could not resume any normality even after becoming normal and settling in his life. He died a mysterious death; at least his family believes so.

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