“They shoot bullets, they shoot bullets!” a voice shouts on video above the sound of gunfire during clashes between police and Muslim protesters in the eastern Indian town of Ranchi.
Footage posted to social media from the June 10 protest shows Mudassir Alam, 15, raising his fist in the air as the crowd chants “Long live Islam”.
More shots ring out and Mudassir falls to the ground.
“He is dead!” a bystander shouts, as people try to stop blood from flowing from a wound in the teenager’s head.
Mudassir later died in hospital, one of two young men killed in the Ranchi clash – the latest victims of a deepening religious divide between India’s majority Hindu population and the community minority Muslim.
The June 10 protest was one of many that erupted across the country after two former spokespersons for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made derogatory comments about Islam’s prophet Muhammad .
Mudassir’s grieving father, Parvez Alam, does not know who killed his teenage son, but in a police complaint he accused officers of “indiscriminately firing AK-47s and pistols aimed at the Muslim crowd”.
He claimed that at least three other men were firing bullets at protesters from the roof of the Shree Sankat Mochan Hanuman Hindu temple near where Mudassir was standing in the street.
“Due to the shooting from the roof of the temple and the police, the situation was chaotic and a bullet hit my son in the 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 Sciences from ‘gunshot wounds’ sustained during the protest .
Ansari’s father, Mohammad Afzal, told CNN his 20-year-old son was returning home from selling cellphones at the market when “police opened fire.”
Ranjan said “the police opened fire because the crowd was violent and the crowd fired for the first time”, but he would not say which crowd he was referring to, saying the matter was the subject of an investigation.
Jharkhand Police Inspector General Amol Homkar said a two-member committee had been formed to investigate the incident, and a special investigation team from Ranchi Police is also carrying out investigations. Homkar said 12 people were injured during the protest and 30 were arrested in the days that followed, although he did not specify any charges.
CNN has reviewed footage of the protest, which at times shows police officers 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 father and son were working at the family’s fruit stall on Mahatma Gandhi Main Road, a major thoroughfare through Ranchi, when protesters gathered after Friday prayers, Alam told CNN.
“I was removing my fruit stand to avoid damage from the protests,” he said. “Mudassir was helping me.”
Alam described his son as a “very polite boy” who, like many teenagers his age, loved making TikTok videos and taking photos on his cellphone.
In a report to Ranchi police, filed two days after his son’s death, Alam said he saw a “crowd” of the “Muslim community” moving north along the main road, and when they reached the Shree Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple, Mudassir joined them.
Alam claimed that the men standing on the roof of the temple began throwing stones at the protesters and fired shots into the crowd.
Video from inside the Shree Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple, verified by CNN, shows several people sheltering on the ground floor, including police officers.
Above the sound of projectiles hitting the building, the panicked voice of a woman said: “Everyone is throwing stones at the temple. The administration tries to stop him…but they can’t. Through the temple’s security screens, protesters can be seen throwing rocks.
Another video shows crowds outside, throwing rocks towards the temple before gunshots rang out. It is unclear who fired the shots, but the crowd is seen carrying away an unidentified man whose white clothes appear to be stained with blood.
Towards the end of the video, armed police march towards the Muslim protesters, who have retreated from their position outside the temple.
Under India’s Code of Criminal Procedure, police can use “force” to disperse what they consider an unlawful assembly.
Irfan Ansari, a Muslim lawmaker from the Indian Congress party, which is part of the ruling coalition in the state, questioned why the police fired bullets into the crowd and said he would ask the chief minister to order a judicial inquiry.
“The Ranchi incident brought shame to the state,” Ansari wrote on Twitter. “It’s the job of the police to protect, not to shoot.”
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 favoring Hindus.
India’s Muslim population of 220 million is vastly outnumbered in a country of 1.4 billion, and although India claims to be a secular country, many Muslims say they live in fear.
Recent comments by former BJP officials on the Prophet Muhammad have not only angered Muslims in India. At least 15 Muslim-majority countries condemned the remarks and some demanded a diplomatic response from Indian ambassadors.
Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar told a town hall hosted by CNN affiliate News-18 on Saturday that the comments did not reflect the views of the BJP.
“What was said was not the position of the party. The party has said that very clearly and taken action,” Jaishankar said.
“Some countries had concerns about this. They deal with us, we are their image of India. Countries that had concerns understand that was not the position of the government,” he added.
But top-level diplomacy failed to quell the anger on Indian streets, where the comments sparked protests in several major cities. In some places, Muslims say they have been targeted for speaking out.
Activists in the northern BJP-led state of Uttar Pradesh led by Hindu priest-turned-politician Yogi Adityanath have accused authorities of punishing Muslims allegedly involved in the protests by destroying their homes.
Authorities defended their actions by saying they targeted illegally built homes on public land whose owners had ignored repeated demolition notices.
But the victims told CNN only Muslim homes were destroyed and no warning was given before 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 speak out and peacefully express their dissent against the discrimination they face.”
Aakar Patel, chairman of the board of directors of Amnesty International India, told CNN that the authorities were “violating Indian law and Indian obligations to various treaties that the country has signed”.
“What India is doing is without the justice process going through it, (it) is targeting Muslims, targeting their homes, even shooting at them – all under the guise of trying to make sure that he there is no violence in the street,” he said. .
CNN contacted Adityanath’s office but did not receive a response. In a June 11 tweet, his media adviser shared a photograph on Twitter of a yellow bulldozer demolishing a property, writing, “Remember, every Friday is followed by a Saturday.”
Last Wednesday, at the family’s modest home in Ranchi, women surrounded Mudassir’s grieving mother, Nikhat Parveen, wiping tears from her eyes as she cried.
Parveen told CNN that Mudassir phoned him after he finished helping his father say he was coming home. “He put his phone down and then he died,” Parveen said.
She said her son was awaiting his high school results and on Tuesday they found out he got A’s in five of his six Year 10 subjects.
“He used to say to me, ‘I’m going to get a government job. I’m going to go far in life,” Parveen said.
“He was incredibly smart…he was loved by everyone. He’s not here today and everyone has tears in their eyes.
Her father, Alam, said police have so far frustrated their efforts to file an FIR – a first information report – which is needed to open a formal investigation.
“We have tried to take legal action, but the authorities are not cooperating,” he said. “We filed a complaint with the police, but they did not register it.”
Homkar declined to comment on the allegation and Alam’s other claims, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Alam said her son’s death robbed her family of their future.
“I am (a) poor worker, me and my son (now deceased) would sell fruits and vegetables. He was the only son and the future of my family,” he wrote in his police complaint.
Mudassir’s mother questioned why shots had to be fired in a busy street where children, like her son, were present.
“Does anyone have the right to do this?” Do the police or anyone else have the right to fire shots like that?
When asked what she wanted from the police, she answered with determination: “I want justice for my son.”
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