ZEESHAN SHAIKH : Dhule, Tue Jan 08 2013, , IE

For 33 years, Deputy Tehsildar Abdul Halim Ansari worked for the state, never doubting that it was largely fair, just and honest towards all citizens. That perception changed on Sunday, after his 30-year-old son died before his eyes, allegedly gunned down by the orders of the same administration that he has served all his life.

Ansari, 58, believes that the police shot his son in cold blood. He says not one colleague or senior official from the administration that he has been part of all his working life has visited him in his tragedy. He says that he will not return to work now; he cannot be part of a “biased” system any more.

On Sunday afternoon, as a quarrel between a Hindu street food vendor and two Muslim youths escalated into riots in communally sensitive Dhule town, 325 km north of Mumbai, Ansari received a call from work.

“One of my colleagues was injured, and I took him to hospital. I was then asked to return to office to collect safety gear and head to Machchli Bazaar where violence had broken out,” Ansari said.

“Suddenly, I received a call saying my son had been injured. I rushed to the hospital. He gestured to me to say he had been shot and asked for some water,” Ansari said. “He died in front of my eyes.”

Ansari’s son, Hafiz Asif Abdul Halim, was an Islamic scholar who had a small provision store outside his home. He had gone to Machchli Bazaar to buy the family’s weekly stock of vegetables.

“The police shot him deliberately, he had done nothing,” Ansari said. “I am not going to return to work. I can’t work for a biased system.”

The families of the three other men killed in Sunday’s firing echoed Ansari. “How can you explain a 17-year-old being shot twice in the back? How can the police shoot a kid who was trying his best to get away from them?” asked Arif Patel, the uncle of Rizwan Raees Patel, who studied in class 12.

Twenty-year-old electrician Imran Ali Qamruddin was supposed to get married this May. His brother Asif Ali said Imran had been complaining of pain in the right side of his body and had an appointment with a Mumbai doctor who was to put him through MRI and CT scans.

“I know that everyone who losses a family member in such incidents says that their relative was not involved in the riots. But I sincerely tell you that Imran never involved himself in such activities,” Asif said.

Asim Shaikh, 24, was an egg vendor who was allegedly shot by police while on his weekly round of the market, delivering eggs to shops.

“It is God’s will. Dhule suffered a lot during the riots of 2008 as well. I have faith in Allah and He will give us justice, but I pray that no father irrespective of religion should ever have to suffer the death of his young son,” Nasir Shaikh, Asim’s father, said.