A group of 74 former bureaucrats and police officers have written an open letter alleging a "complete breakdown of governance and blatant violation of rule of law" in Uttar Pradesh under the Yogi Adityanath-led government.
The letter signed by IAS, IPS, IFS officials highlighted the treatment meted out to peaceful protesters by Uttar Pradesh law enforcement. Giving examples of police brutality during the protests against CItizenship Amendment Act, wherein 22 people died in police firing, filing of over ten thousand FIRs against protestors, the crackdown on protesting Aligarh Muslim University students, among others, they condemned the rampant practice of detention, filing FIRs, and ‘police attacks’ on peaceful protesters.
“Detentions, criminal charges, and recoveries to suppress dissent have become common instruments to be employed against all those who exercise their right of democratic protest,” the letter released by the Constitutional Conduct Group said. It also highlighted the case of arrested Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan. The journalist was arrested on his way to Hathras to report on the brutal gang-rape of a Dalit girl and has spent more than 200 days in prison.
Among the prominent former civil servants who signed the letter are Najeeb Jung, Harsh Mander, Shivshankar Menon, Aruna Roy, Julio Ribeiro, Jawhar Sircar. The letter is also supported by Justice (Retired) A P Shah and over 200 other signatories who are not members of the Constitutional Conduct Group.
"We note with mounting alarm that the present ruling regime in UP has ushered in a model of governance which swerves further and further away from the values of the Constitution and the rule of law with each passing day," the letter read as it demanded an end to alleged extra-judicial killings, attempt at targeting Muslim men with the new law against "love jihad", alleged misuse of the National Security Act in the name of cow slaughter and against protesters and critiques.
Citing the UP Police’s data that 124 alleged criminals were shot dead in 6,476 “encounters”between 2017 to 2020, the signatories pointed out that it meant every five hours during the first three years of CM Adityanath’s rule, an encounter took place.
“The ‘encounter’ campaign led by Adityanath crosses new lines, because data shows that most of those killed in these encounters are either petty criminals or innocents,against whom no charge has been proven. They are also predominantly Muslims, Dalits and other backward castes. The fact that a significantly disproportionate percentage of those killed till August 2020 were Muslims carries its own message,” the letter said.
The signatories of the letter also criticised the enactment of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, also known as the ‘Love Jihad’ law, which they said left many ambiguous loopholes to be misused. Citing that a month after the Ordinance came into being, 84 people were booked in 16 cases alleging conversion for love or marriage among Hindu women and Muslim men. “This law has been used by the state to frame innocent Muslim men who have friendly or romantic relations, or enter into marriage, with Hindu women,” the letter claimed.
It also slammed the Adityanath government’s endorsement and use of ‘vigilante’ groups. “UP has seen a systematic blurring of the lines between actions of the state, particularly its police force, and that of vigilante groups such as the Hindu Yuva Vahini and other ‘cow vigilante’ groups that have enjoyed immunity for their violent actions,” it said.
Pointing to the assembly elections in the state due next year, the letter claimed, "Since coming to power, the bias of the present government of UP against Muslims has been open and uninhibited.” It added, “Further, keeping in mind the forthcoming elections, we apprehend that such actions by the UP government, if not controlled, may cause communal polarisation and disturbances."
The letter alleged the UP administration has misused the National Security Act (NSA) in the name of cow slaughter, against dissenters and to target Muslims and Dalits. They demanded that such use of the NSA and other alleged malpractices of laws against marginalised communities should be stopped.
The former civil servants further sought that the Covid crisis in the state be properly handled, pointing to the uncounted deaths and the collapse of the healthcare system. Underlining the government’s efforts to suppress criticism of its handling of the crisis and actions taken against those looking for beds and oxygen, they said the dead bodies shoring up in the rivers bore witness to the carnage.