- Condition of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh “horrendous”, says jury
- Muslim families feel all agents of state meant for people’s protection have turned against them
Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — The People’s Tribunal consisting of eminent ex-judges, former bureaucrats and academicians here on Thursday indicted Uttar Pradesh’s Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government for the unprecedented police brutalities on anti-CAA protesters in the state. It noted with serious concern that the state’s Muslim population was the target of the violence.
The tribunal observed that the rule of law in UP has collapsed and the state administration perpetrated violence upon on its own people, instead of protecting them.
The Jury of the ‘Tribunal on State Action in UP’ comprising former chief justice of Delhi high court Justice A P Shah, retired Supreme Court judges Sudarshan Reddy and V Gopala Gowda, Prof Shantha Sinha, Prof Irfan Habib, former diplomat Deb Mukherji, Chaman Lal, Dr. N C Saxena, and Dr. Anirudh Kala said the tribunal was deeply worried and dismayed by the testimonies placed before it by the victims of the violence and police brutalities.
MUSLIMS AS TARGETS
“The tribunal is 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 stressed.
While coming down heavily on the law and order machinery, the jury stated that the police has become a weapon in the hands of the government to implement its communal agenda.
During the tribunal’s proceedings, testimonies were presented on the deeply troubling violent, the reaction of the police in response to the anti-CAA protests in December 2019, the role of the CM and the senior leadership in inciting this violence, the role of medial officers who were complicit in perpetrating violence, and the effect of all these on victims themselves.
The victims of police brutality as also various activists who met victims and experts on various related issues presented testimonies before the tribunal. On the role of the CM and political and administrative leadership, the jury found that they have failed to control the widespread atrocities.
“In several instances, we have observed that it has been senior leadership such as the chief minister that has directed the Uttar Pradesh Police to use the strongest force against protesting citizens, also by the CM using terminology like “badla” or revenge. There have also been multiple instances of unsubstantiated and egregious claims being used by Union ministers that have further fuelled the situation in an already volatile state.”
The jury further underlined that, “It is because of this state complicity that the protests have been more deadly in the state of Uttar Pradesh than any in other state in the country”.
“The jury has noted the observations made by field workers on the ground, and concluded that the state administration, through the arbitrary and extensive imposition of Section 144 CrPC in several districts, planned attacks by the police evident from destruction of CCTV cameras, destruction of private property, filing of cross-cases against family members of victims, and other such actions … and these have proven that the administration acted in a biased manner and actively permitted targeted violence against its citizens.”
The jury also pointed out that peaceful protests were organised around the country against the CAA, NRIC and the NPR, but Uttar Pradesh stood out for the intense harshness of the state action to crush the voices of dissent.
On the police violence against the Muslim community, the jury stated that the condition of Muslims in the state of Uttar Pradesh “is horrendous.” It observed, “The level of force used by the police was so extreme that it is unimaginable in any democratic state and we had never witnessed such level of brutality on such a wide scale by the police in the past (except for the states of J&K and the North-East).”
“That the police attacked the Muslim localities even after the situation was under control and the same is a brutal injury to the country which should rather be governed by the rule of law. That the state administration in order to “seek revenge” from the protesters attacked the Muslims of the state who are the most vulnerable and marginalised in the country.”
It also said the attack on the properties of the Muslims in the state was in no way justifiable as the same action went against the democratic ethos of the country.
COMPLICITY OF MEDICAL OFFICERS
On the role of medical officers, the jury said, “While communal violence had occurred in the past, this brutality in UP stood out because the 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.”
“The jury strongly condemns the lack of ambulance services, the discriminatory nature by which victims were handled, some of whom later died of gun-shot wounds that could have been treated and cured. The refusal of medical officers, under Hippocratic Oath to treat victims, is against all manner of medical ethics and absolutely shameful.”
“The jury observed that the denial of medical facility is a serious offence and has never happened before. There may be pressure from the government. But this itself should be taken up as a separate issue. The denial of admission, the denial of treatment and the pressure on shops to not dispense medicine are serious issues and the jury believed all these constituted serious offences. This, the jury noted, should be addressed by medical councils in an urgent manner. Under this regime, there are many new normals,” it added with dismay.
As for the attacks on human rights defenders, the jury condemned the arbitrary arrests of Sadaf Jafar, Mohammad Shoaib, Sandeep Pandey, retired IPS officer SR Darapuri, Deepak Kabir and countless other defenders. It further condemned the scale of the arrests.
“The Uttar Pradesh police have issued notices to more than 3,000 people across the state; cautioning them against participation in protests against the CAA. Throughout the state, the police has sponsored hoardings seeking information on prominent activists. There appears to be a competition between top police officials as to who would register the most number of FIRs.”
DOCTORED MEDICAL REPORTS
The jury expressed concern, given that no FIR, no postmortem report was filed and the bodies were buried without doing these. Now, there is every possibility of these reports being doctored.
ARREST OF JUVENILES
On issues related the arrest of juveniles and minors, the jury said the UP Police and the state administration have violated every principle enshrined in the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
On the recovery of costs by the state, the jury stated that the Supreme Court has given guidelines for presumption of guilt. The fact that notice is served should not be considered equivalent to presumption of gift. It observed, “There is not even the pretence of due process in making these recoveries. The scale of the loss of public property and the guilt of those against whom the recoveries are made have not been established by any judicial process. Since the Chief Minister himself spoke of these ‘recoveries’ in the context of the ‘revenge’ or badla, the action smacks of the most unfortunate communal targeting of people exclusively of one religious identity as an act of public retribution.”
The jury acknowledged the looming anxiety within the Muslim families — those affected by this violence — as “all the agents of the state that were meant for their protection have turned against them.”
The jury further observed, “Unless the police don’t realise that they are only here for the protection of the rights of the people, then nothing will change.”
MEDIA BEHIND UNREST
It also passed remarks on the role of the media, stating that the media gave “little to no sympathy” towards the protesters and rather blamed them for causing the unrest. Media had been complicit in spreading misinformation to the public at large.
The biggest contribution of this tribunal, the jury said, is that these discrepancies and excesses are coming to the fore.
In his closing remarks, jury member and distinguished historian Prof Irfan Habib said the fight was not only about UP, it was about the whole nation. “If people had risen against the revocation of the Article 370, the UP would not have happened. Anyone would say if we were more serious about Kashmir and had protected them, then UP would not have taken place.”
Prof Habib also called upon the political parties to put aside issues like election seats in the background, and unitedly join the struggle against the present dispensations. He noted that throughout the British era, even when leaders like Gandhi and Nehru visited spots like AMU at the height of freedom struggle, the British did not interfere, and they did not impose Section 144. “Can’t we now learn from the masters we opposed? It is a shame that children and universities should be attacked, it is a travesty of the preamble of the Constitution.”
There is a range of action of the present government that is reminding us more of Nazi Germany than the British rule, he said.
The jury heard the testimonies from various human rights activists who were themselves victims of such brutality. Among them were Sadaf Jafar, Magsaysay Award winner Sandeep Pandey, SR Darapuri, Deepak Kabir and Adv. Akram Akhtar Choudry .
Lucknow-based activist Arundhati Dhuru stressed the need for gathering information about arrest of innocent people from Muslim-dominated villages and towns in the state. Describing the official figures of arrests as much less than the actual figures, she referred to the case of village Laharpur in Sitapur district from where 19 people were still in jail.
Referring to some of the disturbing aspects relating to the lower judiciary, Supreme Court advocate Sarim Naved said Hamirpur district sessions judge Anil Kumar Shukal denied bail to those arrested during the protest on “very strange and ridiculous grounds.” The judge observed in his order, “Because recovery is to be effected from the accused persons, bail is denied. Otherwise, there is no way to ensure recovery.”
Naved, who visited many places, said hundreds of unnamed FIRs have become a new source of systemic extortion racket.
The chief organiser of the tribunal and noted activist and writer Harsh Mander said the purpose of the tribunal was to bring truth to the fore as independent human rights watchdog remain silent on the blatant and brazen human rights violations in UP.
A host of organisations has jointly organised the people’s tribunal including Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG), Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform (CJAR), Anhad, Not in My Name Campaign, National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM), MKSS, NCPRI, NFIW, Karwan-E-Mohabbat and others.