ACTIVISTS visiting UP as part of fact-finding visits report a frightening situation where the lives, property, and liberty of Muslim minorities, as well as anti-CAA protestors and rights activists, are under assault by the Uttar Pradesh police and paramilitary, egged on by openly inflammatory language by the Chief Minister Ajay Singh Bisht (who styles himself Yogi Adityanath). Bisht has declared it ‘sedition’ to raise slogans demanding ‘freedom’, and has declared that his forces will take “revenge” on anti-CAA protestors.
CPIML PB member and AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan was part of a Ham Bharat Ke Log fact-finding team to Meerut, and she and AISA General Secretary Sandeep Saurav participated in the Karwaan-e-Mohabbat fact-finding team to Muzaffarnagar.
Uttar Pradesh is under a reign of terror. Uttar Pradesh government is employing unlawful and lethal tactics to harass and intimidate the citizens that are protesting against Citizenship Amendment Act (“CAA”) and National Register of Citizens (“NRC”). The authorities are brazenly targeting Muslims, besides all peoples movements and human rights activists, throwing democratic norms, constitutional rights and the due process of law to the winds. The goal is not just to suppress all dissent against CAA/NPR/NRC in Uttar Pradesh, but to send a signal to anyone who may dare to raise a voice against anything.
Under this regime, UP police has acquired a notorious reputation for repeatedly breaching the due process of law, including over 3,500 ‘encounters’. But ever since the beginning of the anti-CAA/NPR/NRC protests, UP police has crossed all limits of a constitutional democracy. There is little doubt that all this is happening under the personal direction, sanction and supervision of the Chief Minister. He publicly announced a doctrine of revenge against the protesters. In a shocking audio tape in wide circulation, a senior police official can be heard saying that he has the CM’s instructions and full immunity to beat the violent protesters to pulp, so as to teach everyone a lesson. Sadly, none other than the Prime Minister has openly supported this wanton cruelty and breakdown of law and order.
Worse, the government has made it very hard to gather information about what exactly is happening in Uttar Pradesh. Internet has been shut down for good part of the last week almost all over the state. Media persons, human rights activists and even lawyers have been detained for trying to find out about the detainees. Opposition leaders have been prevented from visiting the places affected by police atrocities. Therefore we still do not quite know the extent of police repression. But we can see a pattern in what we have learnt so far from various reliable sources. (detailed report based on information from nine districts enclosed). It is clear that the police and authorities in Uttar Pradesh are guilty of the following:
At a People’s Tribunal organised by Karwaan-e-Mohabbat and many other associated organisations in Delhi including AIPWA, where members of the jury included Justice A P Shah, Justice Sudarshan Reddy, Justice V Gopala Gowda, Shantha Sinha, Prof Irfan Habib, Deb Mukherji, Chaman Lal, Dr. N C Saxena, and Anirudh Kala, testimonies were presented by victims of police brutality, various activists both present and who have since met victims, and experts on the various issues that the tribunal exposed.
During the proceedings, testimonies were presented on the deeply troubling violent reaction of the police in response to the anti-CAA protests in December 2019, the role of the CM and senior leadership in inciting this violence, the role of medial officers who were complicit in perpetrating violence and the effect on victims themselves.
During various fact-finding missions conducted by civil society organisations in Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Sambhal and Firozabad, from January 2 to 12, 2020 prior to the tribunal it was noted that all the violence was directed toward Muslim residents of these towns are now filled with immense grief and unimaginable fear. The scale of the violence is many times greater than this, but following is an account of the preliminary findings of the Karwan e Mohabbat fact-finding team:
We visited families of the dead in these 4 towns – totalling 16. All of the 16 killed in Western UP are young men from Muslim working class families. Almost all their families said that they were not part of the procession, they were at the wrong place at wrong time. They died of bullet injuries. Of the 16, for which we have information, 14 of them were hit above waist – on chest, face, head, neck.
Some of these men died on the spot, others while being shifted from one to the other hospital.
We visited homes which were ransacked and destroyed beyond repairs. In Muzaffarnagar, in house after house we visited in the two Muslim localities which were attacked by police on the night of December 20, – there was a pattern in destruction - the police had attacked only the most affluent houses, in each of the 4 houses we visited, everything that could be broken was thoroughly destroyed, systematically – the police pulled down kitchen cabinets breaking every piece of china, overturned groceries, smashed sinks and pulled open taps leading to flooding of the kitchens; broken bathroom fittings, wash basins, they smashed television sets, fridges, coolers, washing machines, furniture, switch boards; they upturned cupboards, and cars in all houses were vandalised and in one place upturned while police chanted Jai Shri Ram. Family jewellery was looted, and cash stolen from two houses.
The completely shattered members of families who visibly bore the signs of traumata and deep distress told us that the attacking police told them that they will live in their houses now as Muslims will have to leave. The police had interpreted the citizenship law as giving them license to force Muslims to Pakistan.
The attacks were led by local police, in some places joined by plainclothes miscreants. This is a new trend where police is not a silent spectator in attacks but turns into a marauding mob. We saw police broken batons in two houses and a police cap left behind.
People have not filed any FIRs for their loss.
The level of torture in the four towns in police custody was extremely high. Police did not even spare the children - in Muzaffarnagar police arrested 40 minors from an orphanage madrasa and beat the children. The Maulana of the Madarsa was beaten so badly that his legs and limbs were broken.
Police stripped the minors inside the police station and they received injuries on their behind.
In Sambhal, one young person, X - name changed - was brutally beaten and tortured by the police only because they found out that he was a Jamia student. The police beat him brutally in the custody and stripped him naked and beat him with belts and batons.
In Ferozabad, police took away 14 people from different places to Rasoolpur Police Station and from there to Makkhanpur Police Station. At first, the police beat and tortured them inside the Rasoolpur Police Station and then again in the Makkhanpur police station. City residents told us that these police stations are well-known butcheries.
The level of brutality was such that despite knowing the fact that one of the injured was a cancer patient (Ahmed Nabi) and a fractured leg, police beat him with extreme brutality and brought him to a hospital only after three days of his arrest. In the name of treatment, the medical department just gave him some pain killers and no plaster. The family of the victim approached the court, his chemo session was due that week, and even after the court order, the police didn’t admit him to the hospital. It was only after the third court order directing the police to admit the victim to the hospital and under pressure from the media, the police admitted him to the Agra Medical College. We say an X-ray of his leg broken in two piece, without plaster almost 11 days after the incident.
Amir, a labourer was beaten so brutally that he received serious internal injuries. The police denied him medical treatment inside the custody and gave him third-degree treatment despite the fact that he was not even part of the protest.
In Meerut, police had arrested more than 100 people and they still roam around in the night in the Muslim localities in order to intimidate the local residents threatening to arrest more people.
In Muzaffarnagar, horrors unfolded as we spoke to Jameel. Frail and visibly shaken even after nearly twenty days, he narrated the details of his captivity. While he was looking for his brother in the chaos, he landed in the hands of the police who after beating him mercilessly, used a hot iron rod to inflict burn injuries in his hands. He was then put in a car and further beaten. Kept in illegal detention in the barracks, for two days he was not given any food – and this is the story of all in police stations. He was beaten badly in the first night as they repeatedly asked him to “give them hundred names”. He witnessed several other detainees being most brutally beaten, particularly those wearing kurta pajamas and having beard.
Daanish (minor, name changed) and his father were picked up from Meenakshi chowk. The minor was released only after two days allegedly in exchange for money and he narrated as to how he witnessed 4-6 masked men (not police) being let inside the police compound. Detainees would be taken out of lock up for them to be beaten up by the masked men to their heart’s content. He said that only after the information reached the higher ups and when Priyanka Gandhi said she would visit the torture chambers, he was hurriedly released even without the usual protocol of their family members being called.
Families said that pain caused from brutal beating, made the detained very vulnerable. We were told their finger prints were put on desi pistols in police custody, if they refused, they were tortured more.
During our tour we heard in several places that police encouraged, persuaded and in a few cases even compelled the Hindu mob to burn and loot Muslim shops and houses and instead of controlling violence, police invited more violence. In Ferozabad, police chased the protesters into Hindu dominant mohalla and said to Hindu onlookers, Hum Hindu hai, tum bhi hindu ho, maro [We are Hindu, so are you, kill them]! This is when a cancer patient who was there to fill his prescription was caught by a mob and brutally beaten and his leg broken. They also heard saying: “ye to Miyan bhaiyon ko humare Hindu bhaiyon ne muh laga rakha hai, warna inki auqat nahi hai ki ye kuch bolen” [Our brothers have kept these Mian (Muslims), otherwise they do not have the right to say something]. Further, the police said, “hume to abhi do ghante diye hai agar do din de den to inhe bata de ki hum kaun hai” [We have been given two hours now, if we give two days, then tell them who we are].
On 20th December 2019, Meerut Superintendent of Police (SP) Akhilesh Narayan Singh was caught on camera threatening Muslims. “Kahan jaoge? Is gali ko main theek karoonga [Where will you go? I will set this lane straight]. To the group of people wearing skull caps, he also said that “Jo kaali patti aur neeli patti baandh rahe ho unko keh do Pakistan chale jaayein [These black and blue badges you people are wearing, tell them to go to Pakistan]. Further he also threatens the people by saying that “Desh main agar nahin rehne ka mann hai to chale jao bhaiya...khaoge yahan, gaoge kahin aur ka Yeh gali mujhe yaad ho gayi hai. Aur jab mujhe yaad ho jaata hai toh mein naani tak pahunch jaata hun [If you don’t want to live here, go to Pakistan...you eat here but sing praises of some other place. I am now familiar with this lane. And once I remember, I can even reach your grandmother].”
In Sambhal, the locals told that they have an audio recording of the District Magistrate of Sambhal asking some Hindu journalists why they were helping the Jihadis.
The tribunal witnessed testimonies from various human rights activists who were themselves victims of such brutality. Among these were:
The jury of this People’s Tribunal expressed deep worry and dismay at the testimonies placed before it. It was convinced that the entire state machinery, led from the top, acted with gravely culpable and unfortunate prejudice and violence clearly targeting one community alone, the state’s Muslim population.
The jury also observed that the role of the police has become a weapon in the hands of the communal agenda of the government. The Jury noted that UP stands out state authorities were active perpetrators of violence themselves and pressurised the health system to act against medical ethics and Supreme Court decisions in providing medical aid, most importantly emergency medical services. It further acknowledged the looming anxiety within the families of those affected by this violence, for whom all the agents of the State that were meant for their protection have turned against them.