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Stop reign of terror in Uttar Pradesh: ‘Ham Bharat ke Log’ asks for immediate end to brutal suppression of dissent and independent probe into police atrocities

For the last one week, 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/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/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:

  • Denial of constitutional rights to legitimate, democratic and peaceful protest: Authorities clamped down on anti-CAA/NRC protests even before it could begin. Permission for peaceful assembly and demonstration were summarily denied, Section 144 was used indiscriminately and activists who could have launched a protest were detained without any basis. This, while the police failed to prevent violent protests by supporters of CAA / NRC (in particular, demonstrations led by members of BJP).
  • Curtailing of information flow. Authorities have imposed internet shutdowns and limits on transportation to prevent peaceful protests against CAA / NRC.
  • Unlawful Mass Detentions/Arrests. Police have undertaken mass detention and arrest of protestors using outdated colonial era laws (Section 144). Human rights activist and himself a retired Inspector General of Police, Shri S R Darapuri, currently under treatment for cancer, has been arrested. Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey was placed under house arrest.  A score of other social activists are under arrest. There are several cases of police detention without production before a magistrate as required by law. As of December 25, UP police said that they had arrested 925 people and preventively detained more than  5,500 others. We still do not have a full picture of the number of persons detained without a charge or those who are missing. Indiscriminate detentions and arrests are going on and Muslim localities spend nights in fear of midnight knock.
  • Reward posters: All over the state, ‘reward posters’ have come up with pictures of the protesters, without any attempt to establish their guilt, offering rewards to anyone who offers information.
  • Inappropriate Charges. Review of FIRs against detainees shows that the authorities have charged detainees with crimes that are not warranted by the alleged facts in the relevant FIRs, including charged like attempt to murder, rioting armed with a deadly weapon and criminal intimidation. Large number of FIRs have been lodged with anonymous accused running into more than 30,000 persons. This gives police the license to arrest anyone at any stage..
  • Torture during custody: while a fuller picture of the treatment of those detained and arrested is yet to emerge, there are reports that they have been subjected to merciless beating and torture of various kinds. The same treatment was meted out to juvenile detainees in Mujaffarnagar who were placed with adults in violation of the law.
  • Intimidation of Detainees’ Friends and Family. It has been reported that friends, family and counsel of detainees, who have approached authorities, have faced serious harassment, intimidation and in some cases detention.
  • Excessive, Deadly Force. Police are using excessive (often deadly) force against CAA / NRC protestors.  At least 18 protestors, all Muslims, have died since the protests started, including an 8-year old boy.  Every available evidence points to police firing as the cause of these deaths. Yet the police claim that except in one case people died from crossfire from locally made weapons and that the police only fired rubber bullets and teargas shells.  However, a video from Kanpur showing a policeman firing from his revolver at the protestors belies these claims.
  • Denial of treatment to injured and dignity to the dead: The victims of police firing were denied medical aid by private hospitals on orders from the authorities. Post-mortem was delayed. Families of the dead have not received post-mortem reports. Relatives of the deceased were pressurized not to bring the dead body home and were rushed into burying it outside their family burial ground. No compensation has been offered to any injured or to the family of the deceased.
  • Punitive action targeted at Muslim Community. There are more than one reliable reports of the police raiding Muslim colonies, entering homes, ransacking them, and detaining people indiscriminately. In several places, state authorities have sealed shops and commercial establishments owned by Muslims. Notices have been issued to Muslims unrelated to any protest or violence to compensate for the damage to public property.

This reign of terror must end immediately. We therefore demand that:

  1. The government of Uttar Pradesh must to stop this state-sponsored attack, release innocent detainees forthwith, quash FIRs with large number of anonymous accused;
  2. A credible and independent inquiry by an SIT under the supervision of the Supreme Court should be set up so as to ascertain the truth about protests, violence, police action and killings;
  3. Institutions like the National Human Rights Commission and the National Minorities Commission must take up this case suo motto and institute immediate inquiries into the allegations about violation of human rights and assault on the minorities, respectively;
  4. Police officials and personnel, whose complicity in police atrocities is beyond doubt, should be suspended and all the guilty should be brought to the book;
  5. Suitable compensation should be paid to those injured in police action and to the family of the deceased;
  6. Citizens constitutional right to assemble and protest in a peaceful manner should be restored;
  7. To ease the climate of fear and suspicion, and to allow a meaningful dialogue, the Government of India must announce that it is not going ahead with NRC and NRC-linked-NPR.

Contact: Ashutosh 9999150812


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