25, Feb 2020 | CJP Team
In wake of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) coming into effect, several protests had erupted across India. While most remained peaceful, violence was reported from a few. However, questions that need to be asked are; who triggered and who perpetrated the violence, and who was at the receiving end. Now, a fact-finding report by Karwan-e-Mohabbat, sheds some light on what transpired in Uttar Pradesh.
Fact-finding teams of Karwan e Mohabbat visited Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Firozabad and Sambhal between December 26, 2019 and January 14, 2020. The team also heard testimonies of affected parties and survivors of the violence during a peoples’ tribunal held on January 16, 2020 in New Delhi.
Citizenship has been defined as the right to have rights. Over the past six years, there have been clear political moves to fundamentally assault and redefine this Constitutional basis of both Indian nationhood and citizenship. Especially now, with the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 being passed and a not thoroughly debated all India-level NPR-National Register of Citizens (NRC) process. CJP is urging people to understand, organise and fight back democratically. Let’s stand up for the Constitution of India. We must unequivocally reject CAA 2019 and at the same time in the same breath, NPR/NRC. For this we need your support.
Referring to the outbreak of violence on December 19, 2020, the report says, “As of 27th December 2019, the spokesperson of the Home Ministry reported that 19 people have died in UP in protest related violence since 19th December 2019, 1,113 people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in protests and 5,558 preventive arrests have been made. The numbers since have grown.”
Indicting Adityanath for his role the report says, “Through all of this, Chief Minister Adityanath made a call for revenge, followed by even more brutal police raids and assaults. Muslim people have received notices to pay high damages for alleged destruction of public property (including even police batons broken while beating people), without any judicial finding as required by law to prove their responsibility for destroying the properties.” It adds, “And as news began filtering in of the police rampaging in UP, the Chief Minister issued a triumphalist message of self-congratulation from his official Twitter account: Every rioter is stunned. Every troublemaker is shocked. Everyone has fallen silent, awed by the strict Yogi government.”
The report then goes on to give an account of what transpired in different cities. It says, that protests emerged organically after the Jumma prayers in Sambhal, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut and Firozabad.
The report says, “In Meerut, everything was peaceful until about 3 pm. According to local community leaders, after that, about 20-25 men came from the direction of Bhumia Pul and created a commotion. The police stationed at the Tiraha in the area retaliated with lathi charge. As a result, the crowd scattered in all directions. Some people are reported to have pelted stones. The police then further intensified their actions with tear gas and rubber bullets, until they finally resorted to firing. Around 6:00 – 6:30 pm, the Islamabad police chowki on Hapur road was set on fire, which seems to have further incentivised harsher police action.”
It added, “In Meerut, the violence on the 20th largely happened at two major sites. First on Hapur Road, a busy road that goes through the centre of the city where the Islamabad police chowki and City Hospital are located. Second, in the predominantly Muslim areas of Tarapuri and Ahmednagar. In Tarapuri, police are reported to have chased people into the bylanes and shot them.”
According to the report, here’s how things transpired in Sambhal, “In Sambhal, on 19th December, two protests were planned. One by the Samajwadi Party MLA and MP, and one by the Zilla Sangharsh Samiti (ZSS), a prominent local civil society organisation (CSO) that is largely run by Muslims. However, the administration withdrew the permission for the ZSS protest. They made the planned venue inaccessible, imposed section 144 in the city and coerced leaders to sign undertaking guaranteeing their absence at the protests. The protest organized by SP was carried out. However, at city’s Chandausi Chowk, it was met with water cannons, lathi charge, tear gas and police firing in the air.”
Referring to the allegations of deliberate police brutality at Sambhal, the report says, “In Sambhal, the procession was met by a heavy police force led by the SP City at the Chandausi Chowk, blocking the slogan-shouting however the peaceful procession continued. Subsequently, police began to lathi-charge, there was a stampede and teargas shells were lobbed.”
The pattern of unknown men infiltrating protests and instigating violence to give police justification for a violent retaliation remains strong in Firozabad as well. The report says, “In Firozabad, the police had blocked the protesters in their respective neighbourhoods. Local people told us that the police were accompanied by men in plain clothes who had their faces covered. They report that these men provoked the crowd by hurling abuses and stones at them. Locals agree with reports that some protesters indulged in stone pelting and violent agitations. However, it is not clear exactly who fired the first shot, but very quickly the police escalated the situation to the point of a complete crackdown. Eyewitnesses claim that Police fired directly into the protesters, most of them above the waist killing six people.”
But perhaps the worst violence was reported from Muzaffarnagar. The report says, “In Muzaffarnagar, however, the attacks by police and its allies did not end with direct firing at protestors or bystanders. Late at night, the police, RAF and un-uniformed men in police jackets entered in numbers of 50 to 100 into two Muslim dominated areas – names of the two localities – destroying and vandalizing all in its wake, there were all relatively well-off households. Street lights were switched off in the town about 10.30 at night as the forces entered mosques, homes and shops, demolishing all that came their way. They also entered and destroyed the glass panes of a mosque.”
The report adds, “Inside several, relatively opulent homes, everything that could be broken was thoroughly destroyed. Cars were overturned, so were washing machines and fridges, heavy furniture was hacked to pieces, and every single item of kitchenware – pots, pans and dishes and kitchen cupboards – were broken systematically.”
Damning indictment of UP Police
The report hauls the UP Police over the coals for multiple acts of violence and perpetuating a reign of terror. It says, “The police systematically attempted to prevent protests, then when protests went ahead anyway, they used disproportionate and violent means to subdue protesting citizens, including the suspension of emergency medical and legal services. In order to perpetuate the atmosphere of fear, with a longer view of breaking the economic spine of the Muslim community, the police destroyed and looted private residences.”
The report adds, “The police further detained citizens, including minors, en masse and illegally, carried out custodial torture. Throughout all of this, customary judicial and medico-legal procedures were denied and manipulated, including wrongly or not filing FIR’s and preventing families from seeking justice by denying Post-Mortem Reports (PMR) and Medico-Legal Certificates (MLC).”
More shockingly, the report says, “The police and administration have further weaponised the legal system to target and intimidate the community at large by filing anonymous FIR’s that target thousands of people, randomly picking up people from their homes and the streets and charging citizens with counter-cases and recovery notices for damage of property.”
The report then goes on to showcase witness testimonies and highlight show imposition of prohibitory orders under section 144 and an internet shutdown were just means to prevent people from protesting peacefully, something that is their democratic right. The report concludes by saying, “Uttar Pradesh is in the throes of what is fast threatening to become a gravely culpable crime against humanity. It appears that the Chief Minister Adityanath has declared war on the Muslim citizens of his state, inciting and encouraging his police forces to unleash upon them an unlawful and brutal reign of terror. It is not as though police bias and violence against minorities is unusual in communal violence, however what we are witnessing in Mr. Adityanath’s UP is the police force itself becoming the riotous lynch mob.”
The entire report may be read here
(Feature Image – Jansatta)