A taxi driver died after he was allegedly attacked by unidentified persons who boarded his cab in western Uttar Pradesh's Greater Noida on Monday, police said.
The deceased was identified as Aftab Alam, 45, a resident of Delhi's Trilokpuri area, they said. There has been no arrest yet, nearly two days since the attack.
His family has alleged that it was a hate crime, a claim denied by the Gautam Buddh Nagar Police.
"A police patrolling vehicle found the Delhi-registered taxi parked along the Badalpur-Dadri bypass road. On checking, a person was found on the seat next to the driver's seat in a severely injured condition. The police immediately rushed him to a hospital where he died during treatment," Deputy Commissioner of Police, Central Noida, Harish Chander said on Monday.
Alam had gone to Bulandshahr on Sunday afternoon to drop a passenger from Gurgaon. While returning, he got some unidentified passengers in his cab from Bulandshahr.
"He had picked up a passenger from Gurgaon and dropped him in Bulandshahr. While returning, some other passengers boarded his cab for Delhi without a booking. En route to Delhi, they had a fight and the driver was attacked, leading to his death," the officer said.
Later, he was found injured in his vehicle around 9.30 pm after which he was taken to a hospital where he died, according to the police.
His two mobile phones, together worth Rs 12,000, and Rs 3,500 cash, an ATM card and driver's license are missing since the incident, according to the FIR.
On the hate crime claime by the family, the police said they are probing “all points” in the attack.
In a purported audio clip, recorded by Alam's son Mohammad Sabir during a phone call preceding his death, one of the passengers is heard asking someone “bol Jai Shri Ram (chant Jai Shri Ram)”.
Sabir, 26, claims the passenger had asked his father to chant the religious slogan. However, the Gautam Buddh Nagar police maintained that the passenger concerned had asked it to somebody else outside the car from whom they were buying some stuff.
“I disagree with this (the police denial)... they (the passengers) had asked my papa to (chant Jai Shri Ram) and it is clear in recording... they had said my father is a Muslim and asked if he consumed alcohol. One of the passengers told him he had 10 Muslim people working for him who drink liquor... the passenger said his brother helps people get job in Saudi and he also drinks liquor,” Sabir told news channel NDTV.
On the Saudi part, he was apparently referring to the initial conversation in the purported clip, which spans around 40 minutes.
“My papa also chanted Jai Shri Ram and they appreciated him for doing it, saying all religions are one. If you listen clearly to the recording, papa said Jai Shri Ram,” he claimed.
The son alleged his father's death is a case of “mob lynching”.
“What are they (the police) saying? It is a case of loot or robbery? It cannot be so because there is not one scratch on our car, the wallet (of my father) was there in the car. What is that the passengers wanted?” he told the news channel.
An FIR has been lodged in the case for murder, hurting during robbery but the accused are yet to be identified, according to the local police in Badalpur area.
The district police said an FIR has been lodged in connection with the case at the Badalpur police station and investigation was underway.
“As far as the audio recording is concerned, it has been heard and the deceased was not asked to chant any slogan. This sentence came up during shopping from someone else. Investigation is on and all points are being considered,” the police said in a statement.
The FIR has been lodged against unidentified people under Indian Penal Code sections 302 (murder), 394 (hurting during robbery) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender).
Two mobile phones, a Keypad Samsung and an MI, worth Rs 12,000, and Rs 3,500 cash belonging to driver Alam were missing from the cab, besides his ATM card and driver's license, according to the FIR, which has been lodged against “unidentified” accused.
In his complaint, Sabir said he last talked to his father at 7.57 pm on Sunday when the latter was at the Luharli toll plaza and asked him (Sabir) to recharge his FasTag.
“I could not do it immediately and by then he told me has paid Rs 120 in cash at the toll,” according to the FIR.
“However, he did not hang up the call and I continued to listen to the conversation of the passengers in the background for sometime after which the phone suddenly went off. I called back multiple times, but could not reach him,” he stated.
He said later he got to know from the police that his father was found injured and was taken to Mohan Swaroop Hospital in Greater Noida where he passes away.
(With PTI inputs)