With his eyes tearing up and his voice shivering, Sheik Abdul Salam sets the frame for the video. His wife and daughter smile by instinct as they see themselves on the screen. The woman, Noorjehan, also begins to cry, while the children wear solemn expressions. “What should we say?” Noorjehan asks her husband. Abdul Salam is unsure at first, but goes on to record the suicide note anyway, in his house in Nandyal town in Andhra Pradesh. In his tearful voice, he declares that he has nothing to do with the two crimes in which the police have implicated him, and that he is unable to bear their torture anymore. By Wednesday afternoon, all four members of the family were found dead by the Government Railway Police (GRP) of Kurnool district. With the video surfacing days after their death, a Circle Inspector and a head constable have been arrested for allegedly harassing Abdul Salam repeatedly over several months.
Abdul Salam had been working at a jewellery store in Nandyal, where an incident of theft was reported a few months ago. The owner of the store suspected Abdul Salam of having stolen the gold, and he was even sent to jail, according to reports. Even as he was released on bail and started to drive a rented auto, he was continuously harassed by the shop owner and by the police, his relatives allege.
A relative told NTV Telugu that after the gold theft, Abdul Salam was harassed and beaten badly by the police until he bled. “He came out on bail. When he would go (to the police station) to sign every month, he was abused very badly each time,” she said.
According to reports, a few days ago, a person reported that his bag was missing. The police officers alleged that the person had travelled in Abdul Salam’s auto and that he had stolen the bag with help from his associates. According to Abdul Salam’s relatives, they verbally abused him and asked him to return the next day, to be taken to Vijayawada.
In the video that he recorded with his wife and kids, Abdul Salam says, “I didn't do anything wrong. I have nothing to do with the theft that happened in the auto, or in the shop. I am unable to bear the torture. We have no one to help us. That’s why I hope at least my death will bring peace of mind.” His wife, Noorjehan, was a private school teacher. Their daughter Salma was in class 10, and her brother, Kalandar, was in class 4.
On November 4, Abdul and his family had died by suicide. Their bodies were found near Kowlur village in Panyam mandal, close to Nandyal.
Abdul Salam with his wife Noorjehan, and children Salma and Dada Kalandar
His relatives told the media that he was unable to bear the abuse at the police station, and alleged that the police officers spoke inappropriately about his wife to Abdul Salam. They also alleged that the police had seized their family’s jewellery to support their claim that Abdul Salam had stolen the gold from the jewellery shop.
An inquiry has been initiated in the case, and Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has reportedly ordered authorities to investigate the case on a fast track basis. Inspector-General of Police Sankha Brata Bagchi and IPS officer Arif Hafeez are conducting the inquiry.
Circle Inspector Somasekhara Reddy, who was earlier suspended, has now been arrested for his alleged role in the family’s suicide, along with head constable Gangadhar. Both the police personnel have been booked under sections 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 306 (abetment of suicide) read with section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). DGP (Director General of Police) Gautam Sawang has said anyone who is found guilty will not be spared.
Leader of Opposition Chandrababu Naidu said that the death of Abdul Salam and his family is an example that shows that Muslims are being harassed and false cases are being planted on them.
Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.