Several human-rights groups came together for this project. They include 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. On January 16, 2020, the jury presented a statement about their findings at the Indian Society of International Law in New Delhi. Here is the statement.
People’s Tribunal on State Action in UP: Citizenship, Democracy and Protest
16th January 2020 | Indian Society of International Law, Delhi | 10:30 am – 6:30 pm
As peaceful protests were organized around the country against the CAA, NRIC and the NPR, the state of Uttar Pradesh stands out for the intense harshness of the state action to crush the voices of dissent. There were many deeply troubling reports of the brutality and intensity of police action which followed, which led to the formation of this People’s Tribunal to investigate the truth of the matter.
The jury of this People’s Tribunal is deeply worried and dismayed by the testimonies placed before it. It is convinced that the entire state machinery, led from the top, acted with grave prejudice and perpetrated violence targeting one particular community, the state’s Muslim population, and the social activists leading the movement.
The jury heard the testimonies of field workers, lawyers, human rights defenders, civil society activists, doctors, eyewitness accounts, and also looked at the videos of victims.
The following were the main findings of the Tribunal.
The Jury found and concluded that the UP police has been guilty of inflicting enormous violence targeting the Muslim community, peaceful protestors, and not even sparing those were not involved in the protest. The police brutality included apart from violence inflicted on protestors, the arrest of and filing of false cases against innocent people, the destruction of vehicles and property by entering people’s homes, as well as CCTV cameras the threats and intimidation of people picked up, against speaking the truth about what happened to any authority or to the media, the communalised abuses against victims, custodial violence even on minors and firing and killing people without following the law, preventing medical personnel from treating the injured, and threatening the injured against accessing medical care.
The complaints of the victims about police brutality, violence and destruction of property were either not filed or filed incorrectly. On the other hand, thousands of FIRS were filed against unnamed persons on accusation that protestors had become violent with the intention of continued harassment and intimidation.
Role Political Executive and State Administration
The jury found that political and administrative leadership has failed to control the widespread atrocities caused by the police. In several instances, the jury have observed that senior leadership such as the Chief Minister directed the Police to use the strongest force against protesting citizens by using words like badla or revenge.
The Jury concludes that the state administration, through arbitrary and extensive imposition of Section 144 CrPC in several districts, shutting down of internet services, violated the citizens rights and facilitated police violence.
Role of Medical Officers:
Several people testified that hospital authorities and medical officers denied emergency medial care to even seriously injured victims. It was suggested that this was done allegedly under pressure from the police and state administration.
This has clearly been in violation of the Article 21 of the Constitution and the various decisions of the Supreme Court and international treaties to which India is signatory, finally the Hippocratic oath of medial professionals. Such denial does not take place even during war!
Impact on Survivors:
The Jury takes note of the looming anxiety within the families of those affected by this violence.
These instances of violence, abuse, and destruction of homes by the police have resulted in absolute fear and trauma in the community. It is important to understand that when the state is the perpetrator itself, there is no sense of security for those affected.
It appears that there is no health care or legal help accessible to victims in these difficult and testing times leaving them at a state of acute depression and or anxiety. Chances are that there will be large scale Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in this population unless addressed.
The Jury further acknowledges the immediate need for adequate mental health support for those affected by this crisis.
Attacks on Human Rights Defenders:
The Jury found several activists, journalists human rights defenders and lawyers who stood up to injustice were being persecuted, intimidated, harassed and tagged as ‘urban naxals’, anti -nationals. The Jury condemns the arbitrary arrests of the human rights activists and defenders.
Issues around Juveniles and Minors:
The Jury is of the opinion that the UP Police and State Administration have violated every principle enshrined in the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. Every single agency and mechanism that could have come to the rescue of children failed to do its duty. It also reveals that even the best of laws cannot fulfill its purpose if the executive machinery does not wish to see it being implemented well and judiciously.
Recovery of costs by the state:
The jury found that the police has been arbitrarily issueing notices to people for recovery of costs of damage to public property allegedly caused by them without specifying any details. Obviously, this cannot be done without establishing the culpability of the person in a court of law. These are intimidatory and illegal tactics being employed by the police. In fact, there is considerable evidence to show that the police itself indulged in destruction of private property of innocent people.
The state of affairs in UP shows a complete collapse of rule of law. In fact the very state administration that is charged with protecting the rule of law is perpetrating violence upon its own people.
Press Note: People’s Tribunal on State Action in UP
16th January 2020 | Indian Society of International Law
Co-Organizers: 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
Members of the Jury: Justice A P Shah, Justice Sudarshan Reddy, Justice V Gopala Gowda, Shantha Sinha, Prof Irfan Habib, Deb Mukherji, Chaman Lal, Dr. N C Saxena, Anirudh Kala
As peaceful protests were organized around the country against the CAA, NRIC and the NPR, the state of Uttar Pradesh stands out for the intense harshness of the state action to crush the voices of dissent. What unfolded was not in the nature of customary state action to control public protests if they turn violent.
The statements of the Chief Minister were intemperate and entirely inappropriate for an elected leader of the most populous state in India. There were many deeply troubling reports of the brutality and intensity of police action which followed.
The testimonies presented during the Tribunal were presented by victims of police brutality, various activists both present and who have since met victims, and experts on the various issues that the tribunal exposed.
During the proceedings, testimonies were presented on the deeply troubling violent reaction of the police in response to the anti-CAA protests in December 2019, the role of the CM and senior leadership in inciting this violence, the role of medial officers who were complicit in perpetrating violence and the effect on victims themselves.
During various fact-finding missions conducted by civil society organisations in Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Sambhal and Firozabad, from January 2 to 12, 2020 prior to the tribunal it was noted that all the violence was directed toward Muslim residents of these towns are now filled with immense grief and unimaginable fear. The scale of the violence is many times greater than this, but following is an account of the preliminary findings of the Karwan e Mohabbat fact-finding team:
1. Police firing
We visited families of the dead in these 4 towns – totalling 16. All of the 16 killed in Western UP are young men from Muslim working class families. Almost all their families said that they were not part of the procession, they were at the wrong place at wrong time. They died of bullet injuries. Of the 16, for which we have information, 14 of them were hit above waist – on chest, face, head, neck.
Mohsin, 28, shot in the chest
Zaheer, 40, bullet went through one of his eyes.
Aleem, 23, shot in the head
Asif, 20, bullet hit his chest
Aasif, 33, a bullet landed on his back
Bilal, 31, shot under the lower lip
Shehroze 19, shot in the stomach
Noora 25, hit on chest
Mukeem, 19, daily wage earner, hit in the stomach
Rashid, 27, bullet hit on head
Armaan, 24, daily wage worker, shot in the chest
Haroon, poor man, hit in the jaw
Shafiq, 39/40, daily wage worker, hit near the ear.
Some of these men died on the spot, others while being shifted from one to the other hospital.
2. Attacks on property
We visited homes which were ransacked and destroyed beyond repairs. In Muzaffarnagar, in house after house we visited in the two Muslim localities which were attacked by police on the night of December 20, – there was a pattern in destruction – the police had attacked only the most affluent houses, in each of the 4 houses we visited, everything that could be broken was thoroughly destroyed, systematically – the police pulled down kitchen cabinets breaking every piece of china, overturned groceries, smashed sinks and pulled open taps leading to flooding of the kitchens; broken bathroom fittings, wash basins, they smashed television sets, fridges, coolers, washing machines, furniture, switch boards; they upturned cupboards, and cars in all houses were vandalised and in one place upturned while police chanted Jai Shri Ram.
Family jewellery was looted, and cash stolen from two houses. The completely shattered members of families who visibly bore the signs of traumata and deep destress told us that the attacking police told them that they will live in their houses now as Muslims will have to leave. The police had interpreted the citizenship law as giving them license to force Muslims to Pakistan.
The attacks were led by local police, in some places joined by plainclothes miscreants. This is a new trend where the police is not a silent spectator in attacks but turns into a marauding mob. We saw police broken batons in two houses and a police cap left behind.People have not filed any FIRs for their loss.
3. Custodial Violence
The level of torture in the four towns in police custody was extremely high. Police did not even spare the children – in Muzaffarnagar police arrested 40 minors from an orphanage madrasa and beat the children. The Maulana of the Madarsa was beaten so badly that his legs and limbs were broken.
Police stripped the minors inside the police station and they received injuries on their behind.
In Sambhal, one young person, X – name changed – was brutally beaten and tortured by the police only because they found out that he was a Jamia student. The police beat him brutally in the custody and stripped him naked and beat him with belts and batons.
In Ferozabad, police took away 14 people from different places to Rasoolpur Police Station and from there to Makkhanpur Police Station. At first, the police beat and tortured them inside the Rasoolpur Police Station and then again in the Makkhanpur police station. City residents told us that these police stations are well-known butcheries.
The level of brutality was such that despite knowing the fact that one of the injured was a cancer patient (Ahmed Nabi) and a fractured leg, police beat him with extreme brutality and brought him to a hospital only after three days of his arrest. In the name of treatment, the medical department just gave him some pain killers and no plaster.
The family of the victim approached the court, his chemo session was due that week, and even after the court order, the police didn’t admit him to the hospital. It was only after the third court order directing the police to admit the victim to the hospital and under pressure from the media, the police admitted him to the Agra Medical College. We say an X-ray of his leg broken in two piece, without plaster almost 11 days after the incident.
Amir, a labourer was beaten so brutally that he received serious internal injuries. The police denied him medical treatment inside the custody and gave him third-degree treatment despite the fact that he was not even part of the protest.
In Meerut, police had arrested more than 100 people and they still roam around in the night in the Muslim localities in order to intimidate the local residents threatening to arrest more people.
In Muzaffarnagar, horrors unfolded as we spoke to Jameel. Frail and visibly shaken even after nearly twenty days, he narrated the details of his captivity. While he was looking for his brother in the chaos, he landed in the hands of the police who after beating him mercilessly, used a hot iron rod to inflict burn injuries in his hands.
He was then put in a car and further beaten. Kept in illegal detention in the barracks, for two days he was not given any food – and this is the story of all in police stattions. He was beaten badly in the first night as they repeatedly asked him to “give them hundred names”. He witnessed several other detainees being most brutally beaten, particularly those wearing kurta pajamas and having beard.
Daanish (minor, name changed) and his father were picked up from Meenakshi chowk. The minor was released only after two days allegedly in exchange for money and he narrated as to how he witnessed 4-6 masked men (not police) being let inside the police compound. Detainees would be taken out of lock up for them to be beaten up by the masked men to their heart’s content.
He said that only after the information reached the higher ups and when Priyanka Gandhi said she would visit the torture chambers, he was hurriedly released even without the usual protocol of their family members being called.
Families said that pain caused from brutal beating, made the detained very vulnerable. We were told their finger prints were put on desi pistols in police custody, if they refused, they were tortured more.
Hate Speech by Police
During our tour we heard in several places that police encouraged, persuaded and in a few cases even compelled the Hindu mob to burn and loot Muslim shops and houses and instead of controlling violence, police invited more violence. In Ferozabad, police chased the protesters into Hindu dominant mohalla and said to Hindu onlookers, Hum Hindu hai, tum bhi hindu ho, maro! This is when a cancer patient who was there to fill his prescription was caught by a mob and brutally beaten and his leg broken.
They also heard saying: “ye to Miyan bhaiyon ko humare Hindu bhaiyon ne muh laga rakha hai, warna inki auqat nahi hai ki ye kuch bolen” [Our brothers have kept these Mian (Muslims), otherwise they do not have the right to say something]. Further, the police said, “hume to abhi do ghante diye hai agar do din de den to inhe bata de ki hum kaun hai” [We have been given two hours now, if we give two days, then tell them who we are].
On 20th December 2019, Meerut Superintendent of Police (SP) Akhilesh Narayan Singh was caught on camera threatening Muslims. “Kahan jaoge? Is gali ko main theek karoonga [Where will you go? I will set this lane straight]. To the group of people wearing skull caps, he also said that “Jo kaali patti aur neeli patti baandh rahe ho unko keh do Pakistan chale jaayein [These black and blue badges you people are wearing, tell them to go to Pakistan].
Further he also threatens the people by saying that “Desh main agar nahin rehne ka mann hai to chale jao bhaiya…khaoge yahan, gaoge kahin aur ka Yeh gali mujhe yaad ho gayi hai. Aur jab mujhe yaad ho jaata hai toh mein naani tak pahunch jaata hun [If you don’t want to live here, go to Pakistan…you eat here but sing praises of some other place. I am now familiar with this lane. And once I remember, I can even reach your grandmother].”
In Sambhal, the locals told that they have an audio recording of the District Magistrate of Sambhal asking some Hindu journalists why they were helping the Jihadis.
The tribunal witnessed testimonies from various human rights activists who were themselves victims of such brutality. Among these were:
Sadaf Jafar (socio-political activist) Rajeev Yadav (member of human rights group Rihai Manch), Sandeep Pandey (Magsaysay Award winner),S.R Darapuri (Amedkarite activist and retired IPS officer), Deepak Kabir (theatre actor and poet and Adv. Akram Akhtar Choudhury who works primarily in Muzaffarnagar.
The jury of this People’s Tribunal is deeply worried and dismayed by the testimonies placed before it. It 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 also observed that the role of the police has become a weapon in the hands of the communal agenda of the government. The Jury notes that UP stands out 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.
It further acknowledges the looming anxiety within the families of those affected by this violence, for whom all the agents of the State that were meant for their protection have turned against them. Finally, the Jury observed that unless the police don’t realise that they are only here for the protection of the rights of people then nothing will change. The biggest contribution of this tribunal, the jury said, is that these discrepancies and excesses are coming to the fore.