‘Absolutely Illegal’: Activists, Rights Defenders Among those Detained in Mass Crackdown in UP

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“There is no evidence to cite against those detained in Lucknow to prove they are guilty in any way,” said Ishita Yadu, a lawyer associated with the Indian Civil Liberties Union (IUCL). “These detentions are absolutely illegal. The police detained even the relatives who went to police stations to check about those in custody,” she said.

Zafar Aafaq | Caravan Daily

LUCKNOW—The police in Uttar Pradesh have effected massive arrests in the state, detaining activists and protesters in their thousands with a view to taking the steam out of the anti-CAA-NRC protests in state. At least 17 persons were killed in the protests since Thursday. According to a team of lawyers in Lucknow, over 200 person have been detained there so far.

Even as the state banned the right to assembly and imposed an internet shutdown in over 15 districts, people came out in large numbers after Friday prayers from mosques in various cities and towns, raising slogans against the new law. At various places, police swung into action and baton- charged the protesters. Seventeen of them have been killed in the state in the past two days.

“There is no evidence to cite against those detained in Lucknow to prove they are guilty in any way,” said Ishita Yadu, a lawyer associated with the Indian Civil Liberties Union (IUCL). “These detentions are absolutely illegal. The police detained even the relatives who went to police stations to check about those in custody,” she said.

IUCL is offering free legal aid to those arrested or detained in the crackdown against protesters in the past two weeks. However, Yadav said most of the clients were not willing to file the habeas corpus petitions due to fear of reprisal from police. Mohammad Shoib, a human rights lawyer based in Lucknow and runs the Rihaee Manch, was detained on the intervening night of December 19 and December 20. “Ahead of his detention, he was placed under house arrest for two days,” one of his family members said. The organisation said the police also conducted a raid on the house of SR Darapuri, a former police officer-turned human rights defender.

Police detain human rights activist Mohammad Shoib from his home in Lucknow on December 19 2019. (Photo- Caravan Daily)

In the case of Shoib, lawyers filed a habeas corpse petition at the high court to seek his release. The court directed the police to furnish all documents pertaining to detention. “In the first hearing, the police were not able to produce any documents,” Yadu said. A “great relief” so far from the court, she said, was the direction to police to let all the detainees meet and consult their lawyers.

Meanwhile, police arrested a woman activist Sadaf Jaffar in Lucknow for live-streaming a video shot, appealing to the police to intervene and stop armed groups from engaging in violence. The police booked her under the charges of attempt-to-murder and inciting violence. As per a Facebook post of her friend, Sadaf has been “beaten up by the cops”.

In Meerut, a town on the western side of the state, police kept a Dalit activist in jail for two days after he sought permission to hold a protest march in the town. “A police party arrived at my home in the morning on December 15 and took me along,” Gautam said.

He was interrogated and his phone was confiscated. “The police and an intelligence officer scanned my two mobile phones and checked the call list. They asked me who called me and what places I visited in past one month. I gave the details as I have nothing to hide.” Gautam suspects his phone had been on surveillance. “The officials accompanying me received a call from a top official who asked them to check my second phone.”

Towards the evening Gautam was put in the district after he was driven from one police station to other during the day. “I was put there along with pickpockets and it was humiliating,” he said.

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