PUCL Maharashtra has come out strongly on the multiple murders by the RPF constable Chetan Singh and said that “Increasing hate propaganda is hurtling the Indian society down such a dangerous path, where even a police officer from Railway Protection Force (RPF) is influenced enough by communal hate to carry out killings of Muslim men, identifying them by clothes and beards, inside a train.”
Singh opened fire and killed his superior officer RPF Assistant Sub-Inspector Tika Ram Meena and three Muslim passengers Abdul Qadir bhai Mohammed Hussain Bhanpurwala, Asgar Abbas Ali and Sayed Saifullah from his automatic weapon, while on duty on board the Jaipur-Mumbai Central Express on July 31, 2023. He was nabbed when he was trying to escape.
Shocklingly, PUCL said, in a statement, that while an FIR was registered under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), sections 3, 25, 27 of the Arms Act and sections 151, 152, 153 of Railway Act, both the FIR and remand order did not make mention of the video referred to above and his selective killing of Muslim passengers.3 They also did not include the offences attracted on account of his hate speech and
In a video shot by a fellow passenger (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7cCczN-IDQ), the
shooter Chetan Singh can be seen holding his gun and delivering an Islamophobic rant, inter alia
saying “… Pakistan se operate hue ye, aur media yehi coverage dikha rahi hai, unko sab pata chal raha
hai ye kya kar rahe hain… Agar vote dena hai, agar Hindustan mein rehna hai to mai kehta hoon Modi
aur Yogi, ye do hain.” (“they operate from Pakistan, and media is showing this. They all know, what
they are doing. If you want to vote, if you want to stay in India, then I am telling you only two are there,
Modi and Yogi”). The video clearly indicates his deep hate and motivation to murder the Muslim
victims and the role that propaganda spread through media has had in influencing and instigating his
hate sentiments and heinous actions.
During the remand hearing before the Borivali Court, the prosecution while asking for remand shockingly stated that the accused was mentally unfit. However, the PUCL maintained that the “actions of the accused RPF constable Singh appear to be calculated and motivated by his hate for Muslims, as he specifically searched for and selected Muslim victims for the cold-blooded execution and not the other non-Muslim passengers, and also conveyed his motivations through his hate tirade captured on video. It was hence completely shocking to read reports that the prosecution made a statement at the remand hearing that the accused was mentally unstable without any basis rather than
prosecuting this as a hate crime. This would amount to a subversion of law, as hate is a known motive in many cases of grave crimes such as murder. It is entirely mischievous to even suggest that harbouring hate is akin to mental instability. Any attempt to do this would constitute an abuse of the process of law and would set a dangerous precedent. Moreover, it would deny accountability and justice to the families of the victims of this ghastly crime, which must be ensured at all costs.
This extremely terrifying incident of multiple hate killings by a public official entrusted with the
security of citizens, while on duty, raises critical questions. The most important one being the extent
of the influence that the unchecked communal hate propaganda has had on the minds of the public,
including police officers who are entrusted with the serious responsibility of maintaining law and
order in the country. So much so that even accused RPF constable Chetan Singh got influenced by the
hate propaganda against Muslims to such an extent that he handpicked and killed completely innocent
persons from the Muslim community, only because of their religion.
The PUCL statement also referred to the current situation in Manipur and said that
“multiple reports are emerging of the complicity of the police, including where police officer
allegedly led the women victims of sexual assault to the mobs8, is another indication of the danger
faced by the Nation in terms of communal influence operating amongst the police and security forces.
Incidents such as this have also been reported in cases in other parts of the country, with allegations of
the police standing spectator to mob lynchings, protecting perpetrators indulging in communal violence
and also harassing families of victims in cases of hate crimes.
While it is not surprising that the police and security forces get influenced by the overall communal atmosphere in the country it becomes alarming because they are the ones who are bearers of arms and in charge of maintaining public order.
Dire Implications for Maharashtra
PUCL Maharashtra said that the crime has a dire implication for Maharashtra. Since November 2022, Maharashtra, like several other states in the country, has witnessed rallies and public demonstrations organized by extremist
Hinduvta groups filled with hateful, provocative and inciteful speeches against minorities, using
false propaganda and communal narratives, and calling for economic boycott and violence against
Muslims. Several civil society groups including PUCL Maharashtra9 have issued letters to the
Director General of Police, Maharashtra and concerned Commissioners / Superintendents of Police
to take preventive action against hate speech at the rallies and also prosecute the offenders.
Numerous complaints have also been filed at the jurisdictional police stations for hate speech
offences committed at these events.
However, the perpetrators have not been arrested till date and groups/individuals repeatedly indulging in hate speech are allowed to continue holding events and spread the hatred. The Supreme Court of India has also passed orders from time to time to curb the menace of hate speech including orders dated 13th January 2023, 3rd February 2023 and 28th April 2023.,
It is no coincidence that the increasing incidents of mob lynchings and hate crimes against Muslims,
communal violence during festivals and on other communally charged subjects, is preceded and
incited by an atmosphere of hate created by the uncurbed hate speech and communal propaganda.
PUCL Maharashtra is greatly aggrieved and concerned at the communal hate being spread against
minorities at breakneck speed in the state of Maharashtra and in particular, this instant case of multiple
hate killing. Maharashtra is a state which prides in its secular culture and unity in diversity,
foregrounded throughout its history and politics.
PUCL Maharashtra demanded that:
- A court monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) / independent investigating agency be
appointed to investigate the case of multiple hate killings by RPF constable Chetan Singh of
his superior officer RPF Assistant Sub-Inspector Tika Ram Meena and three Muslim
passengers – Abdul Qadir bhai Mohammed Hussain Bhanpurwala, Asgar Abbas Ali and Sayed
Saifullah, onboard the Jaipur-Mumbai Central Express on July 31, 2023. Timely reports of
investigation be submitted to the court to ensure that the case is investigated fairly, thoroughly
and without any external influence, also considering that the accused is a police officer.
- Ensure that all evidence is collected impartially and included in the case against the accused,
including the video taken by the fellow passenger of accused RPF constable Chetan Singh
delivering the hate tirade and other such video and other evidence, witness testimonies etc. It
must be ensured that the case is prosecuted properly and effectively, leading the best evidence
against the accused.
- The investigation must also look into what kind of hate propaganda the accused Chetan Singh
was exposed to, whether he was part of any organization which promotes hatred based on
religious identities and if he attended any such meetings. His social media accounts, media he
followed / subscribed, need to be looked at to identify the sources of influence.
- Sections 153A, 153B, 295A and 505 of IPC should be applied in this case.
- The case must be tried on day-to-day basis, without any delay and be given the utmost
- Protection must be provided to the witnesses and safety of the families of the victims must be
- Proper compensation should be paid and measures taken for livelihood support to families of
victims by the Railways and government authorities.
- Government authorities both at the Centre and in all the states act swiftly to prevent and stop
the spread of hate speech and communal propaganda at all costs! Investigate and prosecute the
incidences of communal hate speech made at the rallies and public events in Maharashtra and
take all measures to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future. Arrest the known
perpetrators immediately. Ensure strict implementation of the Supreme Court orders dated 13th
January 2023, 3rd February 2023 and 28th April 2023 in letter and spirit.
- In light of the communal atmosphere prevailing in the State, the authorities must put in place
mechanisms to ensure periodic checks on the biases, prejudices and hate among police and
security forces, including the RPF. It must be ascertained if any other personnel are similarly
exposed to hate propaganda and if so, immediate action must be taken to remove them from
their charge to ensure such an incident does not take place again. The RPF must take steps to
prevent hate crimes and to maintain the safety of the passengers.
- There should be regular sessions held by police and security forces, including the RPF, to
sensitize its officers on the values of equality, non-discrimination, secularism, unity and
fraternity enshrined in the Indian Constitution, emphasizing on the plural and secular nature of
Indian society and their duty as public officials to uphold Indian constitution.