“I was shouted at by the police officer when I was trying to get my FIR registered.”
Khushboo Akhtar, a journalist associated with a YouTube channel called Pal Pal News, became a fresh target of a hate crime that has become everyday news for all the journalists around India.
On the morning of 30th August, Khushboo’s brother Nadeem received a call from their old neighbourhood that smoke was coming from their home. Within 45 minutes, Khushboo and Nadeem reached their old home to find how the fire brigade had come, done their duty and was gone, only to leave behind ashes and debris.
“We shifted to Noida around one and a half years ago after Ammi passed away. It was impossible to stay there after her death,” said Khushboo.
When Khushboo went to the Sultanpuri police station, she was misbehaved with and shouted at by the female police officer for calling up at the police station multiple times.
“To which I replied that when someone’s home is on fire, they will try to reach the police and would call 100 times. I want to get an FIR registered.”
Whereas, the police officer brushed it off by saying how what’s done is done and asked her to leave. Khushboo left the police station without saying a word.
“I went home to see the damage; everything was burnt to a crisp. Our mother had decorated this home with so much love and affection. It was painful.”
Upon moving inside the house, Khushboo was stunned to find that, near the bathroom, a copy of the Quran was lying burnt. She knew right away what it was all about.
“In the home, our Quran was kept locked in the almirah, and how is it possible it is lying burnt near the bathroom? And even if the fire started on its own, the Quran could not come out of the locked almirah. Another question that echoes is if the fire started because of the short circuit, it is still impossible because we had got the electricity line terminated last year itself. The second question was about theft, but not a single thing had been stolen from our home, not even a glass. My room, which is on the first floor, the almirah, has been destroyed to take out the Quran to be burnt near the bathroom.”
Khushboo contacted the ACP and the DCP Sultanpuri, but they didn’t respond to her calls. Then she finally reached ACP Mangolpuri and told them everything. From death to rape threats, Khushboo receives all kinds of malignant messages daily.
“It is because of my regular and passionate reporting about the injustices and crimes against Muslims and other minorities, their suffering, their pain with utmost outspokenness. And this outspokenness against this injustice is why I have suffered this hate crime,” she said.
ACP Mangolpuri then told Khusboo to reach out to the SHO. She went to the office only to be kept waiting from around 12 p.m. to 6-7 p.m. She continuously requested them to stamp her FIR, but it was useless. She was afterwards informed, that while she was waiting at the SHO’s office, her brother, back at home, was being threatened by the IO to drop the Quran angle from the FIR.
“Later, the forensics came to investigate, but they could not do it properly as the roof was falling, and they feared that if they moved forward, the roof would collapse. Hence, they did not go towards the area where the Quran was locked but collected their samples only from the outside area. Within the samples they collected, they found some papers of the Ramayana; we did not even know that they were under the almirah in the same room. Whereas their behaviour was threatening, they were constantly asking where is the Quran, where is it? That’s when we took them near the bathroom and showed them the half-burnt Quran,” said Khushboo.
When the forensics team completed their investigation and came downstairs, the ASI asked her to sign on plain paper, wherein she declined right away. The ASI intimidated Khushboo and said that she had to sign on the paper no matter what.
“I said again that I wouldn’t sign until you let me click a picture of the same. He suddenly got irritated, it was visible on his face and said that I’d have to visit the police station, and only then they would register an FIR. I showed him my FIR and said that I had already given him a copy, asking him to provide a receipt,” she said.
They declined and said that they wouldn’t give her the receipt, instead, they would give her the much-requested stamped FIR only when she comes to the police station.
“When the ASI asked me to visit the police station, it was around 7:30-8 p.m. The forensics had visited the location, and from that time till 11:15 pm, they kept me waiting there. I called up everyone, each of my contacts.”
Afterwards, a senior journalist at BBC made the call to the commissioner of Delhi and informed how a journalist had been waiting at the police station till 11 p.m. to get an FIR registered.
“At 1:30 a.m., my FIR was registered. The following morning, I was informed, how the FIR was registered, and I was to reach the police station right away and get my FIR. But since then, till today, no action has been taken. Everyone is aware that this is a bona fide hate crime. The police are pressurising me to take anyone’s name, but I am also hell-bent. I won’t take anybody’s name, they have to investigate, they should nab the culprits. I am willing to tell them everything, I am briefing them so many times. I even took the SHO to the first-floor room where the Quran was kept locked in the almirah and showed him the currently broken one,” said Khushboo.
Khushboo receives malignant calls every day, mainly through WhatsApp, so she is not able to record the calls. Her social media accounts are full of threats against her. When she first went to get a complaint registered against such threats, she was turned away and taunted.
“How will you work as a journalist, if you’ll get this scared easily”?