Hyderabad: Citizens against Hate (CAH), a Delhi-based NGO, released a report titled “Everyone has been silenced” which gives the most comprehensive and detailed account of the police brutalities in UP, the anatomy of the cover up, with damning evidence of political complicity. The report is based on extensive research and testimony from victim families. The report is prepared by a team human rights experts, defenders and lawyers.
In the Foreword, Madan B. Lokur Retired Judge, Supreme Court of India New Delhi states: “As the report brings out, for a nation that professes non-violence, it is distressing that the State machinery has been dormant in several documented instances and sometimes insensitive in reacting to situations that disturb peace and tranquility.”
State-wide crackdown against protestors
According to report, at least 23 persons have been killed, 83 injured by the state’s own admission, and hundreds detained in a state-wide crackdown against protesters. Entire communities are under pressure, with arrests and detentions continuing to this day. Authorities are trying to intimidate citizens in an effort to prevent further protests against CAA 2019, and to cover up police’s crimes.
The report observers: “Just after CAA 2019 was passed, large parts of UP, especially its Muslim concentrations in western and central districts of Bijnor, Firozabad, Kanpur, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Rampur, Sambhal and capital Lucknow, were put under lockdown. Restrictions on assembly and movement were imposed, through orders passed under Section 144, Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). At the same time, authorities continue to permit gatherings and rallies in favour of CAA, or themselves organise events to promote CAA. This discriminatory application of the law is arbitrary and mala fide.
Human Rights Defenders were targetted
Internet services were suddenly suspended in various districts. Protests at Aligarh Muslim University on 13th and 15th December 2019, and later in Lucknow, were met with disproportionate brutal force. Public warnings, house arrests and preventive detentions were then carried out against persons that authorities accused of coordinating protests, often the human rights defenders (HRDs). HRDs who were targeted include, Dr. Kafeel Khan Gorakhpur doctor, Dr. Sushil Gautam member of Blue Panthers, S R Darapuri social activist and former IPS officer, Mohammad Shoaib, a senior lawyer and President of forum Rihai Manch, Sadaf Zafar a former teacher and political activist, Dr. Sandeep Pandey, a Magsaysay Awardee and social activist, Dr. Pawan Rao Ambedkar, an academician and social activist, Dr. Anoop Shramik, a Dalit rights activist, Omar Rashid, the UP correspondent of the national newspaper The Hindu, Robin Verma, an academician and social activist, Deepak Kabir, a theatre actor, director and social activist, Mohammad Faisal, a lawyer practicing in the sessions court in Kota, Rajasthan and several others.
Live bullets were shot at protestors
According to eyewitness and survivor testimonies, police personnel shot live bullets at protesters. Firing resulted in at least 22 deaths and several grievous injuries across several districts. In Firozabad alone, 7 persons were killed, 5 in Meerut, 3 in Kanpur, 2 each in Bijnor and Sambhal, and 1 each in Muzaffarnagar, Rampur, and capital Lucknow. Additionally, an 8-year-old child died in stampede caused by Police action against protesters in Varanasi, taking the count to 23.
Homes ransacked private property destroyed
UP Police also ransacked homes and destroyed private property in Muslim neighbourhoods in Muzaffarnagar, Kanpur, Lucknow and Firozabad. In Muzaffarnagar, they also attacked an Islamic seminary, ransacked the property, beat up its staff members and students, and arrested 55 persons. At least 14 were minors, all under the age of 18.
Minors detained, subjected to custodial torture
A fact finding report on violence against minors in the police crackdown against anti-CAA protesters provides shocking revelation of police lawlessness, violating existing laws and regulations regarding children in conflict. Police detained close to 41 minors, and subjected them to custodial torture. Of these, 22 minors were detained and tortured in Bijnor and 14 in Muzaffarnagar.
CM Yogi’s revenge
In post violence crackdown purportedly to exact revenge, as the UP Chief Minister (CM) Yogi Adityanath publicly promised, UP Police detained individuals arbitrarily, followed by invoking serious charges against them, in complete violation of provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015. There has been widespread complaint of custodial torture and inhuman treatment – including beatings as well as food, water and sleep deprivation.
Authorities sealed shops and properties of those they accused of involvement in protests and issued recovery notices on others accusing them of having destroyed public property.
Deceased’s families receive threats and intimidation
Families of the deceased from across districts report a pattern of threats and intimidation by police, from the time of registration of complaints to conduct of autopsies. Police in several instances did not allow bodies to be taken home for burial, rather forced burials at distant locations, in hurried funerals, with the intent to dispose off bodies speedily.
Victim families were not provided copies of FIRs or PM reports immediately, as required. All PM reports confirm deaths due to bullet injuries, all to upper part of the body. Comparing FIRs against respective PM reports, reveal glaring gaps, if not contradictions, in police’s recording of the alleged offences. When these are triangulated with survivor testimonies, the extent of the subversion seems nothing but deliberate and systematic.
UP Police have also been using the criminal justice system to target community members and HRDs, slapping false or exaggerated charges against them, to deter further protests and to silence survivors and witnesses of police crackdown. Many FIRs record involvement of thousands of ‘unknown troublemakers’, without specifying their names or descriptions. Testimonies by community members and affected persons reveal that these ‘open FIRs’ are being used by police currently to target those that might have been witness to police crimes – protesters and bystanders, and those injured on the day – as well as victim families and activists seeking justice.
Targeted surveillance and harassment of Muslim Community
Police FIRs mention that they were ordered to ensure heavy deployment outside mosques. There was heavy deployment of police in riot gear around the Eidgah Maidan area, and posters with passport size pictures of alleged protestors, are pasted all around. Locals claimed that many of these alleged protestors haven’t lived in Kanpur for years, and the police were engaging in religious profiling.
The deadly use of force against civilians by UP Police has been encouraged by the UP CM, Yogi Adityanath, who has issued public threats against protesters to exact ‘revenge’, and slap sedition charges against them. His office has celebrated the silencing that this use of the iron fist to repress citizens has had.
The report notes, “Police reprisal against survivors, and their subversion of criminal proceedings vitiates the justice system, for which the police and state authorities are directly liable.”
The report recommends immediate compensation to families, remedial measures like, fresh registration of cases against policemen, timebound investigation on those, and fastrack trials and punitive measures like time-bound independent enquiry to establish police complicity.
Background of bias against Muslims
Giving the background of bias against Muslims, the reports points out: “Police bias against Muslims in Uttar Pradesh is being weaponised by the current BJP government, led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. BJP took power in the state in March 2017. In elections that were run on an Islamophobic campaign, the BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate among the 403 seats it contested to the state assembly. (UP has 19 % Muslim population, numbering 38 million, 2011 Census). On assuming power, Adityanath targeted Muslims economically, by dismantling previous government’s efforts to include Muslims and others in public provisioning and hitting at their livelihoods by disrupting the meat supply chain business that employs mostly Muslims and Dalits. He has also sought to give police a free hand to fight crime. In the event, Police have come down disproportionately against Muslims and others from vulnerable groups.”