- What has followed since then in Uttar Pradesh is a widespread and brutal crackdown on Muslims on a scale not seen in recent decades. Media reports have methodically documented arrests, deaths and assaults.
- There are many examples of police high-handedness captured on CCTV showing policemen in Muzzaffarnagar and Gorakhpur cities entering homes of Muslims destroying properties and vehicles, assaulting men and women and in some cases, stealing cash and jewellery.
Police and administration officials in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh have declared a war on Muslims after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath vowed to “take revenge” on people protesting against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Law, media reports have said.
A total of 18 people have died, mostly due to bullet injuries, while hundreds of people, including minors, have been taken into custody and thousands have been booked. In Kanpur city alone, police have registered cases against 21,500 people, according to Anant Deo, the city’s top police officer.
The police have denied firing at protesters but media has shown videos of police officers shooting with pistols. So far, the police have admitted killing only one protester, a 20-year-old man called Suleiman who died after he was shot in the stomach in Bijnor city. These protests broke out across the country after India’s Parliament passed the citizenship law, known as CAA, last week.
The call for revenge
On December 20, Chief Minister Adityanath Yogisaid his government would take “revenge” on those involved in the violence by confiscating their properties. “Iss hinsa mein lipt pratyek tatwa ki property ko zapt karenge, aur uss zapt se sarvajanik sampatti ko hue nuksaan ya kahin par public property ko jo damage kiya gaya hai, iski bharapaee bhi hum un sabhi upadraviyon se karenge. Kyunki yeh sab chinhit chehre hain. Wo sab videography mein aa chuke hain, CCTV ke footage mein aa chuke hain. In sab ki property ko zapt kar ke, inse hum iska badla lenge aur sakhti se nipatne ke liye maine iske baare mein kaha hai [The property of each element involved in this violence will be confiscated, and used to recover compensation for public property which was damaged. All their faces have been identified. They are visible in the videography and CCTV footage. We will take revenge by confiscating their properties, I have ordered strict action.],” he was quoted as saying in Indian Express on December 20.
What has followed since then in Uttar Pradesh is a widespread and brutal crackdown on Muslims on a scale not seen in recent decades. Media reports have methodically documented arrests, deaths and assaults.
There are many examples of police high-handedness captured on CCTV showing policemen in Muzzaffarnagar and Gorakhpur cities entering homes of Muslims destroying properties and vehicles, assaulting men and women and in some cases, stealing cash and jewellery.
The police have denied the allegations. Uttar Pradesh is ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has not responded to allegations of police brutality. On Sunday, while addressing a public meeting in New Delhi, Modi said: “I want to ask those pelting stones on the police and injuring them, I want to ask those leading their protests as they hide … What will you achieve by wounding the policemen while they are doing their duty?.”
His party colleague Adityanath has also not responded to these allegations.
Hooligans attacked protesters
During the protests too, the police responded with brutal force and residents have alleged that police brought in hooligans to attack protesters before launching a crackdown on them. Take the example of Muzaffarnagar where Muslims organized a protest on December 20. “People were marching in protest against the CAA on Friday. Then from one side ruling party’s members and supporters came firing towards the protesters. They were accompanied by the police that came down heavily on the protesters. One protester was killed but the police is bent on proving that he died in firing amongst the protesters,” Salman Sayeed, a Congress leader in Muzaffarnagar told Outlook magazine.
Outlook interviewed residents who said their protest met with the convoy of federal minister Sanjeev Balyan. “He instigated the police to chase away the protesters. ‘Ye bheed kaisi hai, hatao isey. Choodiyan pehen rakhi hain kya tum logon ne?’ (Disperse this crowd. Are you not capable?) he told the police following which the police attacked the protesters. Some of the protesters pelted stones at the police too,” the magazine quoted a resident.
“…the police barged into homes of Khalapar area and broke everything. They took away Rs 3.25 lakh (Rs325,000) cash from one house and 200 gram of gold from another. The latter had kept it for their daughter’s marriage. Besides police and security forces, there were people in civilian clothes too,” the magazine reported.
It quoted social activist Nakul Singh Sawhney as saying: “The police have targeted the socially-active and well-to-do ones. Because they are the people who intervene for others,” says Sawhney.
CCTV footage gathered by The Quint website showed police vandalism and even breaking CCTV cameras in Muzaffarnagar.
On Tuesday, NDTV news channel visited homes of Muslim residents in Muzzaffarnagar where police officers illegally entered private properties, ransacking homes and assaulting women and elderly. The NDTV report showed homes damaged by police officers who, residents said, entered bedrooms, kitchens and damaged furniture, refrigerators, TVs and cars. The channel interviewed one young woman who was hit on the head by a police officer. The woman told the channel the policemen took away cash and valuables her family had kept for her wedding.
The police have denied the allegations.
Muslim minors arrested
On Wednesday, HuffPost India documented cases of five minors, including a 13-year-old, arrested in Bijnor town. They were kept in a police station and tortured for 48 hours before being released. “The policemen told the children they were beating them to teach them to never attend a public demonstration again,” the website said quoting the children. “The torture described by the five children range from repeated violent assault, forced stripping, sleep deprivation, and being forced to watch the police assault adult detainees confined in the same facility where the children were held,” it reported, adding that “the total number of minors detained and tortured by the police in Nagina, an urban settlement in Bijnor, could be as high as 22.”
On Wednesday, identical notices were issued to 28 residents in Rampur city, holding them responsible for damaging public and private property, asking why them why Rs1.4 million should not be recovered from them, media reported. Among them who received the notice are an embroidery worker and a hawker of spices who are already in custody. Embroidery worker Zameer’s mother Munni Begum told The Indian Express that she does not even have money to hire a lawyer for her son in custody. “I have not received any recovery notice from the district administration so far. We don’t even have money to arrange a lawyer for Zameer. How can we pay any compensation?,” she told the newspaper.
The crackdown is not limited to Muslim residential colonies, police have entered university campuses and assaulted students. A report titled ‘The Siege of Aligarh Muslim University’ prepared by a group of lawyers, human rights activists journalists and academics was released in New Delhi on Tuesday.
The report prepared by the group led by human rights activist Harsh Mander is based on interviews of 100 members of faculty, students, doctors and several members of the university administration. It said action by the police left many students with “shattered bones, grave injuries, deep bruises, and severe psychological trauma”.
“We visited the heritage Morrison Boys’ Hostel, where soldiers beat up guards and fired teargas into the rooms of the students to smoke them out. The room caught fire, which was doused on time by the students. Doctors from the university medical college rushed more than ten ambulances to pick up the injured students, but the soldiers refused to allow them to rescue the students, and even broke the bones of one ambulance driver,” the report says.
The police have also arrested scores of human rights activists, cultural personalities and detained journalists. On Sunday, Gulf News reported how prominent social activist Sadaf Jafar was arrested and she was kicked in the stomach by policemen in custody. A local court dismissed her bail applications citing grave charges.
Jafar is not alone. Well known theatre personality Deepak Kabir was arrested when he went to a police station to enquire about Jafar. Kabir was brutally assaulted in custody, according to his wife who met him in jail.