Ashbab, an eyewitness to the murder of his two brothers during the Muzaffarnagar riots, was shot dead at Khatauli in UP’s Muzaffarnagar area, on Monday evening, just two weeks before he was to appear for the next hearing in the ongoing trial.
Ashbab, who worked as a milk vendor, was delivering milk to a shop when two armed assailants on a bike shot him multiple times. He died on the spot.
Eight people are facing trial for allegedly killing Ashbab’s brothers and the next hearing was scheduled for 25 March.
His brothers, Nawab and Shahid, were killed in a neighbouring village during the anti-Muslim riots that swept the region in September 2013. The violence had claimed more than 60 lives while over 40,000 people, mostly Muslims were displaced.
According to his lawyer Nasir Ali, Ashbab had confirmed the names of accused in connection with the murders, while recording a statement before a magistrate in the Muzaffarnagar district court. “All the accused are out on bail now. Ashbab was the key witness in the case, and its next hearing is on March 25. He was being constantly pressured to reach a compromise. Fearing that he would be killed, Ashbab had even approached police in February and filed a complaint,” TOI quoted him as saying.
Ashbab’s family alleged the accused had threatened him after he named them. According to his wife Meena, the accused had even come to their house, just few days before his murder and had warned them against pursuing the case.
Meena said she has sought police protection for her two sons, aged ten and three. “Two police officers have been sitting outside our house,” she said.
His father said that they wanted to compromise but Ashbab never agreed to it.