Politicians are the select few, who have risen to important positions in the country. Some are Members of Parliament (MPs), and Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). They discuss, and vote to make Laws that affect all citizens of the state and country. Many of them have won multiple elections, and then have sworn to abide by the values enshrined in the Constitution of India. They hold powerful offices in their political parties, ministerial positions, memberships of powerful committees, and are the public faces of the government. Their words hold the power to change.
Yet, some of India's political leaders use their power, and their words to spread hate, most often focused on fuelling Islamophobia, communal divisions. The list of communal speeches by politicians is long this year of Covid-19, elections, communal violence, protests… but here are the top 10, that caused much damage.
1. Desh ke ghaddaron ko, goli maaron s****n ko: Anurag Thakur, Member of Parliament, Minister of State for Finance
He raised the most dangerous slogan in an election rally in Delhi on January 20, 2020, inciting the public present to chant: “Desh ke ghaddaron ko, goli maaron s*****n ko” (Shoot down the rascals/the traitors to the country). No action was taken against him. Eventually, a plea was filed in court by Brinda Karat, Member of the Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) and K.M.Tewari, Secretary Delhi State Committee. After which a Chief Metropolitan Magistrate had directed DCP, New Delhi to submit a detailed report to explain why no First Information Report (FIR) was filed against Anurag Thakur and fellow MP Parvesh Verma. Thakur maintains, it was the crowds that chanted about bullets, not him. Brinda Karat also moved Delhi HC, challenging order refusing hate speech FIR against Anurag Thakur, Pravesh Verma.
2. These people will enter your houses, rape your sisters & daughters, kill them: Parvesh Verma, Member of Parliament
Like Thakur, Pravesh Verma too comes from a political family. He had made many communal remarks targeting Muslims, while campaigning for BJP during Delhi Assembly elections 2020. He referred to the anti-CAA protests saying, “These people will enter your houses, rape your sisters & daughters, kill them…” Such words fuelled hate and Islamophobia and multiple fact finding reports investigating the North East Delhi riots have held such hate speech responsible for fuelling the communal violence. He also threatened to destroy mosques built on ‘government land’ in his constituency, and during the Covid-19 lockdown he posted an old video of namaz saying it violated social distancing norms. He was gently scolded by Delhi Police for that.
3. If the roads are not cleared, we will have to come onto the roads: Kapil Mishra, BJP member
Kapil Mishra does not hold a leadership role in the party, and was not given a ticket to contest under the Bharatiya Janata Party’s banner in the state election but remains their most ‘vocal’ politician in Delhi. He extensively uses social media platforms to spew communal hate against minority communities. Mishra had made the statement standing next to a local police official outside the Jaffrabad Metro station in the days preceding the Delhi violence, just before US President Donad Trump's visit. The statement reeked of impunity and was highly inflammatory, designed to embolden people to peretrate violence. In November 2020, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) approached the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) with a complaint against Kapil Mishra. Though the BJP-led Union Government has never ‘officially rewarded’ Kapil Mishra for his hate speeches, he somehow has remained ‘invisible’ to even the law of the land.
4. Tablighi Jamaat Markaz was reason for Covid-19 spike in Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal, CM Delhi
As the Chief Ministe,r Arvind Kejriwal had written to lieutenant governor (L-G) Anil Baijal seeking an FIR against the organisers of the Nizamuddin markaz. “Organising such a gathering was extremely wrong. Imagine how many people may have contracted the virus since several persons returned to other states from the markaz,” Kejriwal had then said. The event was held, 14 days before the unplanned nationwide lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24, those attending from outside Delhi, found themselves stranded, and faced a nightmare of police cases for months. Kejriwal also issued regular updates of the number of ‘infections’ from the jamaat. This added massive anti-Muslim hate across the National Capital. The consequences are still being felt.
5. Why not call 'lower castes' by their name: Pragya Thakur, Member of Parliament
While calling oppressed castes ‘ignorant’ the BJP politician encourages the audience to stick to their caste profession. Attempting to legitimise the highly discriminatory caste system, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Pragya Thakur advocated for the Varna system at a Kshatriya Mahasabha in Sehore, Madhya Pradesh on December 12, 2020. She said society has been divided into four categories by the ‘dharmashatra’ (social treatise) only the ‘Shudra’ caste is hurt by its own label because of their “ignorance” regarding the social system, “If Kshatriyas are called Kshatriyas, they do not feel bad. But when Shudras are called Shudras, they are hurt. Why? Because they do not understand,” she said.
6. You will either go to hospital or crematorium: Dilip Ghosh, Bengal BJP chief
Ghosh’s ‘warning’ to rival party workers from Trinamool Congress (TNC) was delivered in public, with cameras rolling, and was made just two days after Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to West Bengal. He said, "All brothers of Didi better mend their ways in six months. Otherwise their arms, legs, ribs and heads will be broken. You will either end up in the hospital or the crematorium!”
7. Defeat of Mughals couldn't be attained during preparation of NRC: Himanta Biswa Sarma
Assam’s Minister for Finance, Health and Education Himanta Biswa Sarma said the “government will prepare NRC once again if BJP comes to power in Assam in 2021" added a dangerous communal hue while speaking about preparing the National Register of Citizens (NRC) again. He insinuated that this had to be done government employees belonging to the Muslim community were misusing their power in Muslim dominated Dhubri and Barpeta districts, and said, "The defeat of Mughals couldn't be attained during preparation of NRC, because of the faulty acts of Prateek Hajela. He engaged people in NRC works, who are themselves doubtful citizens. So, after BJP comes to power in 2021, it will prepare a new NRC once again."
8. Theatres will burn if Komaram Bheem shown in Muslim outfit: Sanjay Kumar, MP, Telangana BJP chief
Telangana’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President and Karimnagar MP Bandi Sanjay Kumar threatened to assault well known film director S. S. Rajamouli if he did not remove the “undermining” image of Bheem in ‘Muslim attire’. On November 2, 2020 he threatened to burn down any movie theatre that screened Roudram Ranam Rudhiram (RRR) movie for portraying a tribal leader in traditional Muslim attire. Kumar accused Director S. S. Rajamouli of distorting historical facts by adding in a scene wherein Komaram Bheem, played by Jr. NTR, is seen applying surma, wearing an amulet and donning a Muslim skull cap. Unsurprisingly, his comments came a day before the bypolls on November 3. However, despite triggering a Hindu-Muslim debate, the person in question – Komaram Bheem – may not have been a Hindu at all, he was from the Gond tribe in Telangana.
9. Control of state power by Hindus is absolutely essential for sustenance of Dharma: Tejasvi Surya, Member of Parliament, Karnataka
He has often referred to Muslims as “puncture wallahs and illiterates”, and commented on anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) protests saying “Mughal raj” will return if the “majority community” was not “vigilant”. In August he posted on Twitter saying, “Dear Hindus, Most important lesson is that control of State power by Hindus is absolutely essential for sustenance of Dharma. When we didn’t control State, we lost our temple. When we regained, we rebuilt. The 282 in 2014 & 303 in 2019 to Sri @narendramodi made today possible!” In October, Indians in Europe and various other collectives called for the removal of Tejasvi Surya as a speaker at a conference hosted by the Indian Consulate in Hamburg. They said Surya had “a divisive agenda against non-Hindu communities which is against the European ethos of equality, diversity and inclusivity” and that “ goes against the European responsibility under international laws such as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights among others.”
10. If you don't mend your ways, ‘Ram naam satya’ journey will begin: Adityanath, CM Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath threatened those interfaith couples he accused of “love jihad” saying the Hindu funeral chant of “ram naam satya hai” will play for them if they "don't mend their ways". He said this on October 31, 2020 during a campaign rally for upcoming by-elections, fuelling communal propaganda. He soon passed the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance. The law was promulgated by UP’s Governor Anandiben Patel on November 28, and allows imprisonment of up to 10 years, and makes ‘unlawful conversions’ a cognisable and non-bailable offence. A month later, around 35 people have been apprehended, and a dozen FIRs registered. Love Jihad, is a concept introduced by divisive forces, who invest in widening the Hindu-Muslim divide.
(Compiled by Karuna John)
Lakhs of farmers have been sitting in protest across the country, against a law the government rushed to pass unilaterally, without consulting those who will be impacted the most. The Union Government turned a deaf ear to the concerns they raised months ago, when the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, were not yet laws.
On September 20, 2020, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Union Government passed the three controversial agricultural Bills in the Rajya Sabha despite lacking the required number of votes. Ironically the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare had admitted to the agrarian crisis on September 18, and said that more than 10,000 farmers, cultivators had died by suicide the year before. The political opposition was similarly silenced as these bills were rushed through a hastily conceived session of the Indian parliament.
Farmers across India have demanded that those laws be repealed, and have rejected the amendments offered by the Union Government. They are focused, on the demand, and have not changed their stance, not even when they were shot at with teargas shells, water cannons, hit batons, as they walked towards the National Capital Delhi, crossing barbed wires, concrete barricades, deep trenches. They have been camping on Delhi’s borders, braving the cold wave conditions, fuelled by the support and solidarity of civil society, workers unions, and the ordinary citizens, for well over a month now.
The Farmers Protest 2020 is now backed by at least 250 farmers’ unions coming together. The protests began in Punjab in August, and held its first mass protest on September 25 with a Bharat Bandh call. The farmers marched towards Delhi on November 26, and now massive crowds sit in protest at key border points across Delhi’s borders and stage dharnas (sit-ins) across the country. The farmers have said that as 2021 dawns, the struggle will intensify, if the government does not pay heed. The government has so far refused to even acknowledge the many deaths that have been reported from the protest sites. There were deaths by suicide, of a lawyer from Punjab on December 27, 2020 a Sikh priest, on December 16, and many more died of heart attacks, hypothermia, and in accidents while as they were participating in the protest and camping on roads. Meanwhile, the Union Government seemed to be fuelling a ‘sarkari stalemate’.
Farmer leaders have continued to express disappointment at the government’s response to the letter sent by them on December 26, 2020 saying it was “woefully short of any attempt to resolve issues.” The farmers even listed modalities for the repeal of the three Central farm Acts, mechanisms to make remunerative MSP into a legally guaranteed entitlement, amendments in the Commission for the Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020 and changes to the draft Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 to protect farmers as its agenda items.
While the government of India remains unresponsive to the farmers, the right wing cadre, often led by Union Ministers has been trying to communalise, discredit, divide, and vilify the farmer’s movement. They have called the farmers: Maoists, Leftists, paid protestors, terrorists, too rich to be farmers, too organised to be farmers, freeloaders, politically motivated.
BJP-led state governments have tried to crack down on farmers:
● Senior officials of Uttar Pradesh police and revenue department were reportedly instructed to fan out to the districts to confirm whether (or nor) local farmers intend to participate in farmers’ struggle.
● Income tax raids on Arhtiyas (commission agents). The Arhtiyas called the I-T raids an ‘act of revenge’ by the central government. Multiple I-T raids were conducted on arhtiya leaders on December 18 and December 19. They shut down vegetable mandis (markets) or wholesale markets in protest on December 25 to protest “pressure tactics’ by the central government to discourage support for the farmers’ struggle.
● Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) tried to ‘infiltrate’ and discredit the farmers' protest. A RSS worker when caught admitted to distributing pamphlets against the farmers’ struggle at the Singhu border on December 20, 2020. He was reportedly caught distributing pamphlets, stickers to defame Kisan andolan, to discourage people from supporting the peasant movement. Small time self-proclaimed Hindutva leaders joined the anti-farmers chant, and called for violence.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held photo opportunities, with a small group of farmers from his home state Gujarat, has visited a Delhi Gurudwara, tele-addressed farmers in BJP ruled Madhya Pradesh, and blamed the Opposition for ‘misleading’ the farmers about the laws. He is yet to talk to the protestors directly. The Farmers have dismissed all such claims of the central government. They have called out the Centre’s ignorance about the agricultural sector and remind the sarkar about the condition of farmers in BJP-led states.
It is now up to the Union Government to take the next, decisive step, and agree to the farmers’ demand of repealing the law. Failing which, this is a revolution that may last well into 2021. After all, we can only reap what we sow, and the farmers of India, have already given the world a lesson on planting the seeds of revolution.
As the year draws to a close, and the talks between the government are set to resume on December 30, there is cautious optimism among the protesters. That the Modi 2.0 government is speaking its quintessential version of doublespeak, a real breakthrough may take much more time coming, however.
(Compiled by Karuna John)
The massive citizen-led protests denouncing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register for Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) continued till February 2020. As Covid-19 began to spread across urban India, all citizen-led protests were suspended, one by one, in the larger interest of public health.
Towards the end of February, communal riots blazed through North East Delhi, in which many Muslims, and a few Hindus, died, and thousands of Muslim families were displaced. Soon enough all public gatherings were officially banned, the Covid-19 lockdown was in place for citizens. However, the sarkari system was on overdrive.
One after another, activists who were involved in, or had spoken on public forums and said NO to CAA-NPR-NRC, were sought out by the system, trolled, abused, even arrested. The Delhi Police linked the protests to the communal riots, and their charge sheet, in the North East riot investigations, named a number of activists who were active in the anti CAA-NPR-NRC protests.
Here are some names we must not forget as a new year rolls in:
1. Umar Khalid: One of the most vilified, and targeted amongst those who protested the CAA and NRC is Dr Umar Khalid. The former JNU scholar-activist is now in jail and the Delhi Police in their massive supplementary chargesheet filed in the North East Delhi riots case have also alleged that Khalid has carried his “atheism as a pretence”. Khalid, has been called a “veteran of sedition”. Police stated that Khalid was the “convergence point of the twin lines of Pan-Islamica and Ultra-Left anarchism which had incubated, nurtured and propagated the common conspiracy, all squarely aimed at violent subjugation of the Government” and that he has two “mutually reinforcing lines of thought”. Recently at a peace procession to mark the anniversary of the attack on Jamia Millia Islamia University, his mother and sister were allegedly detained by Delhi Police.
2. Prof Apoorvanand: He is a professor of Hindi at the Delhi University, and well known activist and prolific writer. The Delhi Police has his name on a supplementary chargesheet, a list of citizens they claim “provided support in organising the anti-CAA protests.” Prof Apoorvanand was said to be among those ‘continuously poisoning the minds of common people against the CAA/ NRC.’ On August 3, Prof Apporvanand was called for questioning by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police in connection with the violence that broke out in North East Delhi in February 2020. He spent five hours there and the police seized his phone “for the purpose of investigation.”
3. Bilquis Bano: On December 1, 2020, Delhi police detained Shaheen Bagh activist Bilkis Bano or ‘Bilkis daadi’ as she is better known, as she went to Singhu border to show her solidarity with the farmers protesting there. The 82-year-old woman was listed as one of the 100 most influential people of 2020 by Time Magazine. Bilkis said the peaceful anti-CAA-NPR-NRC protests were about love and equality and asked, “Why are our young people being put in jail because of it? This was not a battle I fought alone, it was a shared struggle.” She added that there was “so much for the government to do – for the future of our country, for the farmers… Today Covid is the bigger disease. When that is overcome, then the disease of the CAA-NRC must be combated. The struggle for equal citizenship will continue.”
4. Women of Shaheen Bagh: A large group of women, who were just regular Delhiites going about their lives fulfilling duties of being mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, attending to duties at home, few had jobs. Yet, hundreds of these Muslim women stepped out of their homes to protest the Citizenship Act, that questioned their very existence. As they sat in protest outside their residential colonies, for months, they endured more than the freezing Delhi winter. They were compared with prostitutes, called protestors on hire, tagged as ‘bad mothers’, ‘shameless women’, and were vilified even when they eventually suspended in public interest once Covid-19 pandemic set in. They inspired scores of similar women-led protests across the city, and the country. Those sites came to be known as mini-Shaheen Baghs.
5. Teesta Setalvad: Activist, and editor of SabrangIndia, Setalvad is a veteran survivor of targeted abuse by Right Wing inclined media. She was a guest speaker at anti-CAA-NPR-NRC rallies in Delhi, and elsewhere and was one of the first to seek that the NPR be withdrawn. Soon, Times Now targeted her, called her “Shaheen Bagh tutor” and the same was amplified by right wing blogs, fuelled by BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya who shared a video on Twitter when Teesta Setalvad was talking to women at Shaheen Bagh protest. Times Now channel has often dedicated airtime for the unwarranted labelling of Setalvad as a “Modi Baiter” to fuel its jingoism. On March 9, the digital edition wrongly and maliciously interpreted Setalvad’s views on the National Population Register (NPR) to suggest she was against the conduct of the Census in the country. Setalvad had clearly said, “We do not want census work to stop, but our demand is that the census work should not begin until NPR is withdrawn.” When all else fails, trolls and troll media starts talking about her personal life, falsely stating she is Muslim, because her spouse, well known activist Javed Anand is one, and that she married him in a Nikah ceremony. Setalvad’s vilification continues.
6. Ishrat Jahan: A former Congress councillor, had spoken at anti-CAA-NPR-NRC protests, but was arrested in connection with the North East Delhi riots that followed, after a speech given by BJP’s Kapil Mishra. She is in jail and has been charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Her vilification continues in Jail. Recently a court has had to intervene and tell jail authorities to take immediate steps to ensure Ishrat Jahan’s security, after she alleged she was “beaten and abused” by inmates, in her cell in Mandoli jail. Her family has alleged that her clothes have been torn, her head smashed against the wall several times and she is constantly abused and threatened. Jahan told the court she had been assaulted, and was under “immense stress due to the continuous physical and verbal harassment” she said, addin that the other inmates “keep calling me a terrorist”.
7. Harsh Mander: Activist, and former civil servant has also been put under the scanner by the Delhi Police as they suspect he was a part of the ‘conspiracy’, they believe was birthed during the anti-CAA protests, and this incited North East Delhi’s communal violence. Mander has often said this was the Police’s attempt to “criminalise, punish and crush” one of the largest non-violent movements in Independent India, that the anti-CAA protests became. Clips of Mander’s speech outside the Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMIU) were used to accuse him of ‘denigrating the Supreme Court of India and inciting violence’. A case was filed against him with the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, presenting clipped versions of his speech to the SC.
8. Gauhar Raza: The well known scientist, poet and filmmaker, is also a civil rights activist. And that, probably pre-qualified him to be placed onto Delhi Police’s ‘the list’. After Raza’s name was added in September, he issued a strong statement addressing the Delhi Police. He stated, “I maintain that disagreement with the policies of the Government and dissent is a constitutionally guaranteed right. I have always protested against injustices and against the anti people policies and draconian laws including the CAA, NRC and NPR and I will continue to raise my voice against those actions which I find anti-democratic and anti-people. This is what scientific temper demands from me. I demand that the government stop criminalizing dissent.”
9. Khalid Saifi: One of the founders of social activism group United Against Hate, was active during the anti-CAA protests, and the public campaign against NRC and NPR. The other founders include activists Nadeem Khan, Banojyotsna and Umar Khalid. Saifi was among those who were arrested from a protest site at Khureji Khas in February. Initially charged under Section 307 (attempt to murder), he remains in jail for over 300 days now as he is also charged under UAPA. Union Home Minister Amit Shah had spoken in Lok Sabha mentioning that ‘a WhatsApp group called “United Against Hate” was created on February 17 and some leaders delivered inflammatory speeches on February 19, which led to protests that “culminated into riots”. He said such groups had indulged in “fear mongering” that the Citizenship Amendment Act would take away their citizenship.
10. Lawyer DS Bindra: The devout Sikh had spent most of Delhi's freezing winter months cooking, and feeding hundreds who gathered at Shaheen Bagh during the historic protests. He was inspired by the Sikh farmers’ group that had come from Punjab to support the protest at Shaheen Bagh. Bindra set up an open kitchen near the protest site, and began serving fresh vegetarian meals to whoever wanted a plate. Bindra also organised langar at the Chand Bagh sit-in protest site in Mustafabad and also in Khureji for around five days, helping feed hundreds of protesters. Bindra’s langar closed down with the protests. However, his name was added to ‘the list’ mentioned in a chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police in the matter of the killing head constable Ratan Lal. He was mentioned ‘as one of the organisers of the sit-in protest at Chand Bagh’, called in for lengthy questioning; it was also alleged that Bindra called CAA as being anti-minorities. He said all he did was feed the hungry.
(Compiled by Karuna John)
As this difficult and challenging year ends, SabrangIndia draws attention to the treatment of anti-CAA-NRC protesters in Uttar Pradesh as part of our series tracking victims of apathy and vilification.
Since the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 was introduced and passed in Parliament, and threats of the implementation of an all-India Nation Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) repeatedly made, spontaneous protests broke out across the country. A unified resistance built up against these discriminatory legislative and policy moves and demonstrations and peaceful sit-down protests were held with the tricolour; the Constitution, songs, poems and the ideals of Bhagat Singh, Gandhi and Babasaheb as its symbols.
In Uttar Pradesh, some protests led to large scale violence and the fact-finding teams of Karwan-e-Mohabbat visited Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Firozabad and Sambhal between December 26, 2019 and January 14, 2020 and shared the testimonies of affected parties and survivors of the violence during a peoples’ tribunal held on January 16, 2020 in New Delhi.
This report showed how in Meerut, the violence on December 20 largely took place 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.
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.
In Sambhal, the procession on December 19 was met by a heavy police force led by the city’s Superintendent of Police at the ChandausiChowk, 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 police made the planned venue of protests inaccessible and imposed section 144 in the city.
In Firozabad, the police had blocked the protesters in their respective neighbourhoods. Eyewitnesses claim that Police fired directly into the protesters, most of them above the waist killing six people.
In Muzaffarnagar, the police, RAF and un-uniformed men in police jackets entered in numbers of 50 to 100 into two Muslim dominated areas destroying and vandalising 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 also stated that the police and administration further weaponised the legal system to target and intimidate the community at large by filing anonymous FIRs 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 to property.
Resorting to scare tactics and allegedly warning people against participating in anti-CAA protests, the Uttar Pradesh cops carried lists of alleged anti-CAA protesters and their addresses, questioning locals of their whereabouts, houses, size of families, who and where they are and their age and profession. A woman resident of the Kotwali area who was reportedly questioned by a dozen policemen also told the media that the policemen intimidate them by unnecessarily knocking at her door.
The government and administration also displayed posters and hoardings throughout the state capital of Lucknow of alleged anti-CAA protesters in a crude and illegal way of ‘naming’ and shaming them. As many as 57 persons were named and with their addresses and photographs put up on posters and hoardings. They were accused of being part of the violence during the protests. The alleged protestors were also arbitrarily asked to pay huge sums compensation for “damage to public property” that took place during the violence at the protest in December, 2019. The hoardings also said that if these people fail to pay up, their properties will be attached/confiscated. The total amount of damage to property listed in the hoardings was up to Rs. 1.55 crore.
Before putting up these posters, UP Chief Minister had declared that properties of those involved in the violence would be seized and auctioned to compensate for destruction of public and private assets during the protests over the amended citizenship law and issued three recovery orders for the same.
These activities prompted the Allahabad High Court to take suo motu cognizance and hold hearings on Sunday, March 8 observing injury to the right of privacy. It held that this incident amounted to gross negligence on part of public authorities and government. The Court deemed these actions of the state to be “colourable exercise of powers by the Executive” which amounted to violation of Article 21 of the Constitution. The court also held that there was a valid apprehension of causing serious injury to the rights protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It said that this caused injury to the precious constitutional value and its shameless depiction by the administration. “The cause as such is undemocratic functioning of government agencies which are supposed to treat all members of public with respect and courtesy and at all time should behave in manner that upholds constitutional and democratic values”, the court remarked. It then directed the Lucknow administration to remove the banners and file a compliance report by March 16.
The Uttar Pradesh Government then approached the Supreme Court challenging the High Court order which was finally heard by Justices UU Lalit and Aniruddha Bose. On March 12, the Apex Court refusing to stay the operation of the High Court order held that the ‘name and shame banner’ was not backed by law, highlighting the value of Privacy as the Allahabad High Court did. It referred the matter to a larger Bench for consideration which is now pending.
On March 15, the Uttar Pradesh recovery of damage to public and private property ordinance 2020 was cleared in the cabinet meeting chaired by UP CM Adityanath in Lucknow. This was passed to recover damages to public and private properties in any violent protest or demonstration from the miscreants. The ordinance ignores tested jurisprudence and caution from constitutional courts that point to the absence of due process in such a “Name and Shame” policy. Intrinsic to this understanding is the arbitrary, unchecked power such an ordinance gives wings of the state, tilting power away from the people into the hands of the state, its police, without any checks and balances.
There are two PILs pending hearing at the Allahabad High Court challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance. One of the PIL states that the ordinance is redundant since the matter of prevention of damage to public property is already covered by The Prevention of Damages to Public Property Act, 1984. It further states that the ordinance is discriminatory and also violates principles of natural justice as it contains no provision whatsoever for setting aside the ex-parte order upon appearance.
The other PIL filed by a lawyer practising in the Allahabad High Court, Shashank Tripathi, urged the court to issue a writ or a direction declaring the ordinance ultra vires to the Constitution. His plea stated: “To evade from justifying itself from court of law, the State has played mischief upon the Constitution.” The PIL also stated that the ordinance talks about judicial activity, but without procedural and functional safeguard required by law.
Ahmed Ali, a Muslim cleric and Suhaib-ur-Rahman, who heads an organisation were accused of distributing unlawful pamphlets during a protest in Prayagraj against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR). The Allahabad High court protected them from arrest, however did not quash the FIR against the two.
The violence in Uttar Pradesh claimed 21 lives, more than 1,100 people were arrested and 5,558 people were kept in preventive detention.
The three activists who faced the worst vilification by the state of Uttar Pradesh in 2020 are:
Dr Kafeel Khan: The paediatrician, and human rights defender was released from seven months of detention, around midnight on September 2, 2020. The Allahabad High Court had set aside his detention order under the National Security Act (NSA). After being released, he continues to fear the possibility of the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government charging him under another law to detain him again.
Khan had spoken at a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) on December 12, 2019. An FIR was filed against him the following day but he was arrested on January 29, 2020 in Mumbai.
The Police booked him under the stringent NSA for “disturbing public order in the city and creating an atmosphere of fear and insecurity within the citizens of Aligarh.”
He was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court on February 10, 2020 and was to be released on February 13, 2020. Then, charges under the NSA were slapped against him. His speech had called for national integrity and unity among the citizens. The speech also deprecates any kind of violence.
He walked out of jail, and reunited with his family after Supreme Court Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said that there is no reason to interfere with the September 1, 2020 order of the High Court. CJI SA Bobde dismissed the appeal filed by Uttar Pradesh government, but clarified that other criminal cases against Khan will be decided on their own merits.
S.R. Darapuri: A retired Inspector General of Uttar Police Darapuri, is a Buddhist Ambedkarite and though his home state is Punjab, he made Uttar Pradesh his home as he had worked here all his life. During his tenure, he was vocal about the rights of the marginalized and worked to protect them. After retirement, Darapuri dedicated himself to speaking up on issues regarding Dalits, Adivasis and minorities. He was 76 years old when he was arrested on December 20 2019, after he called for a political but non-violent protest against CAA. He was released on bail in January 2020.
In August 2020, he wrote in the National Herald sharing details of his case, and said even though “the police failed to produce any evidence against me in the court,” a charge sheet has now “been filed in the court in which I have been described as the Master Mind of the conspiracy to instigate violence.” Darapuri who has served in the Indian Police Service for 32 years, added “you can imagine what they can do to an ordinary man.”
SadafJafar: Actor, Congress member and social activist Jafar was also arrested during the anti-CAA protests in Lucknow. After she was released on bail in January, she publicly alleged that she was “tortured in police custody and called a Pakistani” when she was in jail. “Women police officers dragged me by my hand to the corner of the street and started beating me with a baton on my legs,” Sadaf recalled they kept saying “Oh she’s Muslim.” She continues to speak up on human rights violations today.
(Compiled by Adeeti Singh)
Students of the year hauled from University, to Jail
About exactly a year ago, December 2019 saw the country rise in a single voice to protest the highly discriminatory and vile law passed by the government, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019, which was perceived by all as being anti-Muslim. The people also saw through the government’s plan to further implement National Register of Citizens (NRC) such as in Assam which would again also be a route to further disenfranchise and exclude minorities, marginalised sections of Indians who would be caught up in the ‘trap’ of producing documents to prove citizenship. Under the leadership of students and women of all ages, many of whom hailed from the targeted Muslim community, the protests were supported by thousands of Indians: people joined en masse in these protests which included activists, students and people from all walks of life.
The streets of Delhi were rich with these protests when the state elections drew near. From the middle of February 2020 onwards, top echelons of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by union home minister, Amit Shah, followed by other Kapil Sharma and Anurag Thakur made a string of provocative speeches. By February 23-24, violence had broken out in North East Delhi, targeted crimes that eventually claimed the lives of 52 plus people and destroyed homes and livelihood of thousands, all in a span of two plus days.
Demands for action against the hate offenders were ignored and within weeks came the Covid-19 Pandemic driven ‘lock down’. This period was thereafter used to launch the witch-hunt that continued despite the pandemic. Several student protestors were incarcerated charged with serious offences under laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act which made their release from jails well-nigh impossible. All of them, with the exception of SafooraZargar, continue to languish in prisons merely for raising their voices in dissent.
Here’s a look at 2020, the year when students were arrested for exercising their right to protest:
Asif Iqbal Tanha, Jamia Millia Islamia, - Still in jail
Image courtesy: Scroll.in
Tanha was arrested on May 19, 2020 and has been in judicial custody since May 27, 2020. His bail was rejected twice by Session judge stating that there were reasonable grounds for believing that the allegations against Tanha were prima facie true and that he played a very active role in the entire conspiracy of organising the protests at the several locations which were ‘responsible for the violence.’
On December 3, Delhi High Court granted custody parole to Tanha and directed jail authorities to move him to a hotel so that he could prepare for and write his exams.
Gulfisha Fatima, Jamia Millia Islamia, - Still in jail
Image courtesy: Economic Times
Granted bailby Sessions Court, Delhi on November 21, in the Delhi riots case, but continues to remain in jail as her judicial custody under UAPA charges still persists. She was denied bail twice earlier.Fatima, an MBA graduate, has alleged through her lawyers in court that she constantly faced discrimination by the jail staff who called her an educated terrorist. This sort of mental torture has severely traumatised her.
Sharjeel Imam, JNU – Still in jail
Image Courtesy: ThePrint.in
Imam was initially charged for sedition for his comments during anti-CAA protest at Aligarh Muslim University. On November 23, a Delhi Court took cognizance of chargesheet filed against him and former JNU student Umar Khalid for conspiring in the Delhi riots and have been charged under UAPA.
Meeran Haider, Jamia Millia Islamia, - Still in jail
Image courtesy: frontlinedefenders.org
Haider is a PhD student at Jamia, and the president of the Delhi unit of the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s youth wing. There is no news report of Haider having applied for bail and denied the same. He has been charged under UAPA along with fellow student, SafooraZargar, Congress Councillor Ishrat Jahan, JNU students DevanganaKalita and Natasha Narwal, Asif Iqbal Tanha and Gulfisha Fatima.
Devangana Kalita, JNU – still in jail
Image courtesy: theleafelt.in
Kalita, member of Pinjra Tod, a women’s organisation, was arrested on May 23 in a case related to rioting in northeast Delhi. While the court had granted her bail the next day in the case, she was arrested by the Crime Branch in connection with a murder case related to the riots.Kalita has been named in four FIRs related to the Delhi riots, including one invoking UAPA. Delhi High Court granted her bail in one case whereby she was accused of instigating anti-CAA protestors to join Delhi riots and the same was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Natasha Narwal, JNU – still in jail
Image courtesy: Indianexpress.com
Narwal, member of Pinjra Tod, was arrested on March 23, in connection with a case filed against certain Anti-CAA protesters in Jaffrabad. However, she was immediately released on bail.Soon after being released on bail, another FIR was registered against for allegedly instigating the Delhi riots and she has been in judicial custody ever since.A Delhi court, on September 17, granted her bail in connection with the riots in Jafrabad, observing that the videos shown in court do not show her indulging in or inciting violence. She still remains in custody in thecase filed against her under UAPA.
Safoora Zargar, Jamia Millia Islamia – Released on bail
Image courtesy: BBC.com
Zargar was detained in April 2020 and in June 2020 was granted bail at Delhi High Court as Delhi Police agreed to release her “humanitarian grounds”.She was set free within 2 months of being detained under an anti-terror law while being 5 months pregnant, all for seemingly blocking a road; a ground cited by Sessions Judge while denying her bail.
(Compiled by Sanchita Kadam)
2020 has perhaps been cruelest to the people of Assam. Just as they were coming to terms with exclusion of over 19 lakh people from the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) last year, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed, upsetting the applecart over a very volatile subject… Indian Citizenship.
And all this only got compounded due to economic hardships in wake of an unplanned lockdown. Here are some examples of how people were ‘othered’, isolated, harassed, targeted and even institutionally murdered in Assam due to the apathy of the administration.
70-year-old daughter of freedom-fighter forced to appear before Assam FT!
In March 2020, we had brought to you the story of Seje Bala Ghosh, the daughter of Lt. Digendra Chandra Ghosh, was connected closely with prominent revolutionary and freedom fighter Chandra Sekhar Azad. She had been served a notice to appear before a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) in Assam despite her name appearing in the final National Register of Citizens (NRC). When we had met her in March, SejeBala was earning a living working as a maid, but now her health has deteriorated significantly. When she learnt about the possibility of an FT hearing in September, she fainted and fell to the ground breaking an arm! One of her sons has died, and the other has not been able to find any work due to the lockdown. The family is surviving due to the kindness of neighbours. Read more here.
Flood-affected people sent ‘foreigner’ notice in Assam
Four women and one man hailing from the flood-affected Dhalpur village in Darrang district of Assam were sent notices in July 2020, to appear before a Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT) in Mangaldoi to defend their Indian citizenship. This was at a time when their village was submerged under 7-8 feet of water. To add insult to injury, the notices were sent via whatsapp. Read more here.
Family of five dies by suicide
Five members of a family died by suicide in Assam after being pushed deep into debt due to loss of income as a result of the unplanned lockdown in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The deceased were identified as Nirmal Paul and Mallika Paul, and their three daughters: Dipa, Puja and Neha. The eldest daughter was hoping to pursue post-graduate studies after getting her B.Sc degree. The incident took place in Tulsibil village in Kokrajhar district of Assam. This needs to be viewed as institutional murder of an entire family that was unable to cope with deprivation and abject poverty… a fate thrust upon them due to the State’s decision to suddenly declare a lockdown without taking into account its economic impact of people from financially weak backgrounds.
The institutional murder of Gopesh Das
On December 15, Gopesh Das spoke to his wife Amala over the phone one last time. Amala was declared a ‘foreigner’ and is lodged at the Kokrajhar detention camp. For close to two years, her release was the only thing on Gopesh’s mind. With his wife of forty years forced to spend life behind bars, 63-year-old Gopesh started losing hope and feeling helpless. But when nothing worked in his wife’s favour and she continued to remain behind bars, Gopesh died… his death an institutional murder. CJP Assam team not only helped perform Gopesh Das’s last rites, but also helped secure Amala’s release from the Detention Camp for one day to complete religious formalities in wake of her husband’s death. Read more here.
104-year-old ‘declared foreigner’ dies in Assam
Over half a century ago, when Chandrahar Das was a young man, he fled Bangladesh and made his way to Assam via Tripura. A refugee, he even obtained a certificate of registration. But all of that appeared to have been in vain, when he was arrested and thrown into a detention camp three years ago… at the age of 101! At that time, the Dementia and Parkinson’s Disease afflicted man, arrested at the age of 101, could not recall when he crossed into the country. Though he was released on bail after spending three months in a detention camp, he was still a ‘declared foreigner’ when he died on December 13, 2020, at the age of 104. Read more here.
(Compiled by Deborah Grey)
While the world debates whether 2020 has been the worst year for humankind, bedevilled by the pandemic and insurmountable suffering, some communities, victims of centuries of exclusion and othering might strongly feel differently. With deaths and gendered violence inflicted every day in atrocities which span across generations. Dalits, Bahujans and Adivasis, have been, yet again, subjected to inhuman treatment by a casteist system promoted and deepened even further by Hindutva supremacists throughout yet another year.
Let us look at the worst of the shocking crimes committed against Dalits, Bahujans and Adivasis in 2020 so when we enter the next year, we are more empathic, sensitive and vocal for crimes against humanity.
1. Hathras Gang Rape
On September 14, four ‘upper-caste’ men allegedly gang-raped and murdered a nineteen-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh. At first the UP Police not only allegedly ignored the girl’s complaint despite her grievous injuries, but also delayed filing a complaint. This also prevented the girl from getting timely medical attention. The swab test to establish sexual assault was also delayed by several days! After her death, the police also cremated the victim’s body allegedly without the family’s consent. The incident shook the nation to think about rape culture, power dynamics, the oppressive caste system and its implications at an intersectional level. A timeline of developments in the case may be viewed here.
2. Dalit teen allegedly shot dead for entering temple
Monstrosities against the marginalised continued even during the lockdown when 17-year-oldVikas Kumar Jatav was shot dead for visiting a local Shiva temple. A few 'upper-caste' youth had objected to his presence at the temple where Jatav who was a Dalit offered prayers on June 1. He was thrashed by these 'upper-caste' men led by Horam Chauhan, and when Jatav approached the police, they refused to file an FIR! On June 6 the 'upper-caste' youth came to Jatav's home, dragged him out and shot him dead! The crime took place in Domkhera village of Amroha district, Uttar Pradesh.
3. Jharkhand gang-rape
A 35 year-old woman was allegedly gang-raped by 17 men in Dumka while her husband was held hostage. The couple was on their way back from the market when the incident took place. In a reckless comment, RJD leader Shivanand Tiwari has blamed the ‘consumerist culture’ for rapes in tribal areas. Out of the 17 accused, only one was arrested as he was identified by the survivor. The probe is still underway as the National Commission for Women (NCW) has taken cognisance of the matter.
4. Dalit teen stalked, molested and shot dead
A Dalit teenager was stalked and molested by three young men. When the eleventh grade student stood up for herself, she was shot five times in the head and killed. This incident took place in Premnagar in Firozabad district of Uttar Pradesh around the Navratri festival in October. Two of the accused, Manish and Sopali Yadav were later arrested.
5. Dalit Youth thrashed in UP
On July 9, a Dalit bot was brutally beaten by ‘upper-caste’ men for something as trivial as a phone call made by the former to the latter in a small village of Kunwarpur in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh. When Vishal, the victim, called Dipu Sharma, his wife picked up to inform that Dipu was not at home and the call ended. The same night, Dipu with his brothers and friends came to Vishal’s house, hurled casteist abuses and beat him with rods, sticks and cable wire. They left when Vishal had turned blue and black, and his skin was peeled off. CJP filed a complaint in this regard to NHRC which was then transferred to UPHRC.
6. Mob violence against Dalits
In Uttar Pradesh’s Mangta village, a mob of more than 300 Thakur men allegedly attacked the Dalit community on February 13, seriously injuring more than 25 people. 18 people, mostly women, were grievously injured and had to be hospitalised. The incident took place when the Dalit community reportedly refused to pause celebrations on the fourth day of festivities of Bhim Katha. A Thakur family that was hosting a wedding was allegedly upset with this defiance. A mob weilding axes and lathis attacked the members of Dalit community. They also allegedly tore off the women's clothes. The mob also torched a house. The previous day, when the Dalit community had taken out a Bhim Shobha Yatra procession, Thakurs had allegedly torn down posters of BR Ambedkar.
7. Dalit brothers beaten, house set ablaze
In Chirgai village of Madhya Pradesh's Datia district, a Dohra brother duo was beaten over refusing to withdraw a 2018 police complaint over difference in wage payments against Pavan Yadav. The relatively upper-caste Pavan Yadav forcefully entered the home of Dalit brothers with his friends and relatives. They attacked the Dalit brothers with axes and riffle butts, opened fire and set their house on fire on November 21.
8. UP Dalit woman raped, killed, body found with mud in orifices!
While the UP government took pride in launching the ‘Safe City Project’ with women safety in focus, they conveniently ignored the atrocities against Dalit women in their state. One particularly horrendous caste-and-gender-based-violence committed during the time was the rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Sonbhadra district in a region that falls under the jurisdiction of the Jugail police station. Her body was found with mud and cloth in orifices on December 8. The disturbing visuals did some rounds on social media but the officials still maintained silence.
9. Denial of right to last rites
The family of Pooja, a woman from the Nat nomadic community, who had died of a uterus infection on July 19, was denied the right to cremate her in a dignified manner in Kakarpura village of UP. Just before her four-year-old son was about to light her pyre, the Thakur community intervened and forced them to take the body to a cremation ground marked for the use of ‘lower castes’. This led to a stand-off that lasted almost six hours despite the presence of the Gram Pradhan, the police and local leaders. The family was eventually forced to take the body to the NaglaLal Das cremation ground 4 kms away. The family did not have resources to file a complaint, so the Agra police took suomotu cognisance of the matter. The probe is underway.
10. Bihar cops open fire on Kaimur Adivasis
A two-day sit-in strike was organised by thousands of Adivasis from 108 villages near the Birsa Munda statue in Adhaura on September 10 and 11, with due legal permissions, in the Kaimur district of Bihar. The Adivasis were demanding rights to their land, water and forests under the Forest Rights Act 2006. But these rights were being trampled upon by Forest Department officials. Though the protest was peaceful, Bihar police opened fire and lathi-charged unarmed protesters, and made arbitrary arrests. Three people were injured with one Adivasi man identified as Prabhu narrowly missing a fatal wound to the head. Many people were arrested and false cases under charges such as Sections 307, 353, 147, 148, 506, 504 and even Arms Act. A Fact-Finding Report was released collectively by human rights organisations- AIUFWP, CJP and DSG- on September 23.
The lockdown announced by the Government of India on March 23, 2020 has had a disproportionately large impact on the migrant workers. While countless faced starvation and homelessness, many even lost their lives. Here’s a look at how an apathetic State ignored some of the most vulnerable people in the country.
1) Mohammed Jamaluddin, a 39-year-old skilled mason who had been working in Mumbai for the last 13 years, was forced to leave the city and take an arduous journey back home to Birbhum, West Bengal. At first, he took two consequent journeys by bus, then travelled by truck, then a short distance even on foot, before again boarding a truck so that he could get home1 Along the way he was forced to bribe policemen who kept demanding he turn around and go back. Read more about his ordeal here.
2) A bus carrying 70 Odia migrant workers from Surat swerved off the road at KalingaGhati in Kandhamal district of Odisha killing one person and severely injuring another. 40 others sustained minor injuries.
3) Ranvir Singh, a migrant worker set on a foot-journey to his village 308 km away in Madhya Pradesh after losing his Job in Delhi due to financial uncertainty. He passed away after covering 200 kms due to a heart attack on Kailash Mod on National Highway - 2. He was last heard over the phone complaining of chest pain and asking for help.
4) Gangamma, a construction labourer in Ballari, who was on her way home to Raichur after having covered over 300 kms on foot, passed away on April 7, at VIMS hospital, Ballari allegedly due to starvation and negligence at the quarantine shelter.
5) Munna Sheikh, a 27-year-old auto driver, had moved to Mumbai from Bihar 15 years ago. He was living in Bandra’sShastri Nagar, a low-income neighbourhood with a few friends. When the lockdown began his source of income dried up. CJP came to his rescue with emergency rations, but his ordeal was far from over. Though he and his friends filled out forms to board Shramik trains, they did not receive any response. Thus, when they heard a rumour that a train was leaving for Bihar on May 19, they rushed to Bandra where police rained lathis on a large number of people desperate to go back home. Though Munna and his friends somehow managed to catch the train, it took them 62 hours to reach Katihar, Bihar! Read more about his ordeal here.
6) Locals in Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh resisted the entry of the 200 migrants who were brought back home after they were stranded at Tamil Nadu due to the lockdown on May 1, despite the authorities explaining that they have tested negative for Covid-19. The arguments led to clashes and police had to resort to lathi charge to disperse the angry villagers, the situation was resolved when the migrants were allowed to quarantine at a local school.
7) RajuSahni, a 40-year-old migrant worker who may have been cycling to his home state, was found unconscious by a passer-by on the roadside who informed the police. Sahni was taken to the hospital where he was declared ‘brought dead’. A police officer said, “He worked at a private firm in Ankleshwar and had cycled from Ankleshwar till here. But we cannot say for sure whether he was travelling back to his native town all the way to UP or to Vadodara from where trains to UP have commenced.”
8) 35-year-old Ganesh Yadav, a cook from Madhubani Bihar had been living in Mumbai for 20 years. The sudden lockdown forced him to live indoors in his one room dwelling in the scorching heat with his family of five until May. With police patrolling the streets he and his family used the paid toilet once or twice a day. With his source of income coming to a standstill and earnings dwindling, CJP volunteers came to his rescue and provided him much-needed ration along with information regarding ways of getting home. When he did eventually manage to board a train, the 18-hour journey stretched to 72 hours! The family was given no food by authorities and had to depend on the biscuits they had carried and food-packets distributed by some people, a day after the journey began. Read all about his ordeal here.
9) A clip was widely circulated on social media on May 27, of a toddler playing with a shroud covering his dead mother at a railway station in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. According to the woman’s family, she died due to the heat and lack of food and water. The woman had boarded the train with her sister and her family from Ahmedabad, Gujarat to Katihar, Bihar and collapsed shortly before reaching Muzaffarpur.
10) In a shocking incident 16 migrant workers were crushed to death in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad region by a freight train on May 8. The workers were walking to Bhusawal from Jalna, 157 kms apart, to board a ‘Shramik Special’ train to return to Madhya Pradesh. Exhausted, they slept on the railway tracks thinking they would be safe if the trains were not running when the mishap occurred between Madnapur and Karmad stations in Nanded division. While 14 of them died immediately, 2 of them succumbed to their injuries later.