New Delhi: Human rights activists, senior lawyers and journalists on Tuesday came down heavily on the Uttar Pradesh police, accusing them of unleashing brutalities and targeting Muslims. They also flayed the Bharatiya Janata Party government, led by Yogi Adityanath, for the “continuing persecution” of human rights defenders and organisations protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
At a press conference here on “Police brutality and persecution in Uttar Pradesh” during ongoing protests across the state against CAA and National Register of Citizens (NRC), senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, citing a judgement by Justice AN Mulla of the Allahabad High Court, said: "Justice Mulla had said 1950 that the Uttar Pradesh police is the largest ‘organised gang of criminals’ in the country but what we are seeing in today's scenario, we can say that UP police is a not only largest organised gang of criminals in the country but is also the largest organised gang of communal criminals in the country.”
Bhushan recalled that chief minister Adityanath himself had said on television that he would take 'revenge' against protesters, adding that he was same CM who is a history-sheeter against whom 10 serious offences, including attempt to murder, conspiracy to murder, rioting, communal violence and communal hate speech, were filed. “Soon after he became CM, his government withdrew all the cases,” he added.
Lamenting that the sections of the judiciary were not performing their duties, Bhushan said: “Ironically, the High Court and Supreme Court kept mum over the anarchy in the state. Such a situation was not even seen during the Emergency period."
When asked by a reporter for his comment on 23 people who were killed in Uttar Pradesh during the anti-CAA protests and all of them reportedly having received bullets above the waist, the senior lawyer said: "The police were given an order by the government to kill the protesters and police did this while opening fire above the waist. Not a single victim received the bullet below the waist. The UP police should be booked for not following the police mandate."
Giving reference of a recent People's Tribunal, which heard testimonies of field workers, lawyers, human rights defenders, civil society activists, doctors, eyewitness accounts, and also looked at the videos of victims, Bhushan said that the Jury of the tribunal found and concluded that the UP police was guilty of inflicting enormous violence, targeting the Muslim community, peaceful protestors, and not even sparing those who were not involved in the protest.
MUSLIMS, DALITS TARGETED
Advocate Mohammad Shoaib, president of Rihai Manch, recounted the horror when he was arrested under fabricated cases of attempt to murder, rioting and arson and was released on bail from Lucknow jail after a month of incarceration.
"The government wants to make Muslims second class citizens by bringing CAA and NRC into force. I was under house arrest on December 19, a day before the protest took place in Lucknow. At night, they took me to the police station and abused me, threatened to kill me and my son and when I argued that we will protest in a peaceful manner, they (police) sent me to jail for a month. This is how Yogi's police is treating human right activist and common citizen in the state," Shoiab said.
He said there were several others who were part of the protest, including Sandeep Pandey, Rekha Verma, Sandeep Dixit, but they only targeted and arrested me, dalit activist SR Darapuri, Deepak Kabir, Robin Verma, Pawan Rao Ambedkar, Sadaf Jafar. “Robin was beaten black and blue," he said.
Terming CAA a "self-inflicted goal", Shoaib said India had "gifted" its adversaries "platforms from which to attack us".
Mangla Verma, an advocate and member of Rihai Manch, told NewsClick, "In the present context, the attack on human rights defenders, grassroot organisations and activists is most worrying, adding “If defenders of rights and voices from margins are attacked, who will defend the Indian Constitution?"
"The UP Police have illegally arrested people from the Muslim community and other marginalised communities in order to suppress the voices," she added.
Senior journalist Hartosh Singh Bal pointed out that the ‘Gujarat model’ had now reached Uttar Pradesh. "Like in Gujarat, Muslims in Uttar Pradesh are being targeted," he said.
So far, 23 people have been killed in the brutal state crackdown during protests against CAA and the proposed NRC in Uttar Pradesh. Most of the dead were Muslim daily wagers, who succumbed to alleged police bullets. Close to a month after the killings, only three families have received post-mortem reports, say activists.