According to police in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, it was suicide. The young Muslim man they had brought into their custody had, out of despair, killed himself in the police station toilets. But, as photos of the scene emerged, so too did suspicions.
The 22-year-old man, Altaf, was 165cm (5ft 5in) tall and weighed 60kg (9.5 stone), but the toilet tap he had supposedly hanged himself from was just 76cm off the ground and made of flimsy plastic. And why, as the police later claimed in court, was the CCTV in the police station mysteriously not working that day?
Family and friends tell a very different story: that Altaf, a Muslim man living in the town of Kasganj, was in love with and planned to marry a Hindu girl. That powerful local Hindu vigilante groups opposed to interfaith unions found out and reported him to the police. And that on 9 November 2021, Altaf was arrested and tortured to death in police custody and his family pressured to keep quiet.
“The police murdered my son and then gave me money to say he was depressed and took his own life,” says Altaf’s father, Chand Miya, an illiterate mason who has taken the case to the state high court. “But I will not stay quiet, I want justice.”
Last Friday, the courts ordered Altaf’s body to be exhumed and a new postmortem examination to be carried out.