On the Situation in Uttar Pradesh
The following is the statement issued at a press conference held on January 7, in New Delhi after CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Subhashini Ali visited various centres of Uttar Pradesh.
SEVERAL districts in Uttar Pradesh have witnessed unprecedented police brutality after mid-December leading to 21 deaths. This is the direct consequence of the attitude of the chief minister towards any form of dissent and protest. He has stated publicly that he would take ‘revenge’ (badla) against protestors and make them pay for any damage that occurred during the protests. He has been more than true to his word.
Lucknow, Kanpur, Meerut and Bijnaur are four of the districts which have witnessed killings of people, destruction of property, vicious beatings and large-scale arrests. Notices for ‘recovery’ are also being posted and extremely poor people are being asked to pay huge fines.
11 people have been killed in these districts. All of them are young Muslim men from extremely poor families. Except in Lucknow, where an e-rickshaw driver, Mohd Wakeel was killed on the 19th after the joint protest, all these killings took place on Friday, December 20 after the Juma prayers. While these prayers are held in mosques across the state and attended by lakhs of people, the administration resorted to attacks on the people returning from the mosques in certain areas of about a ten districts of the state. Anger against the passage of the CAA was widespread among many sections of the population of UP. Students everywhere were enraged by what they saw happening in JNU, Jamia and AMU and members of the minority community felt that their very right to Indian citizenship was threatened. It is clear that where violence occurred this was the result of administrative failure and/or partisan behavior and brutality on the part of police officers in the areas.
Like others in UP, all 11 were shot above the waist and at least one (Alim, Meerut) was shot in the head and one (Anas, Bijnaur) was shot through the eye. After they were shot, no one from the administration informed the families who came to know through bystanders and neighbours. Post mortem was conducted on all the bodies but, except for the families of Anas and Sulaiman (Bijnaur) none of the families has been given a copy of the PM report.
The bodies of the other victims were handed over to their families in a most insensitive manner. In Meerut and Bijnaur, they were not allowed to be taken to their homes and were buried in far off graveyards.
The DGP of UP asserted immediately after the incidents, that the police had not fired a single shot. Not only do the bodies of the dead tell a different story but in the case of Sulaiman, the SP Bijnaur has accepted that he was killed by a police bullet fired in ‘self defence’. However, the police person who fired the bullet has no injuries and no firearm has been recovered from Sulaiman’s body. As far as Anas is concerned, his PM reveals that he died of a bullet in his brain but the police does not accept responsibility for this.
Countering the claims by the police, authenticated videos have appeared on national channels which show a) firing by policemen in Kanpur and b) vandalising of private cars in Kanpur.
In Kanpur and Lucknow, the police have been accused of entering peoples’ homes, looting their belongings, abusing them and also kicking and beating women. (Muzaffarnagar has reported terrible atrocities committed by the police against minor boys and the Maulana of a madarsa).
In the last week, police officers of Kanpur and Meerut have announced that they will treat all those who have been killed or injured by bullets as ‘rioters’ and will file cases against them. Recovery notices will also be issued.
In addition to these incidents of brutality, there are a few other points to be noted about what is happening in UP:
No compensation of any kind for the families of those killed has been announced by the state government.
No medical help has been made available to most of those suffering from bullet injuries. Many of them, in fact, have been arrested.
In both Meerut and Bijnaur (and possibly in other districts of Western Uttar Pradesh), ‘police mitras’ have been recruited. No procedure has been laid down for this and no criteria observed. Local people say that most of those recruited are supporters of the BJP. They have been given badges, jackets, ID cards and lathis by the local administration and have been seen and photographed beating people and vandalising property.
In Bijnaur, three prominent lawyers including Javed Aftab Sidddiqui, ex-town area chairman and Mutawalli of the Jama Masjid, who had absolutely nothing to do with any kind of wrongdoing have been charged as rioters by the district administration which has actually put up posters declaring them absconders with a reward of Rs 25,000 on each. On January 5, the district court observed a strike demanding cases against them and all other innocent people be withdrawn. The UP Bar Council is also taking up this matter.
In Meerut, the SSP released a video on a national Hindi channel claiming that a ‘mob’ had tried to burn 35 police personnel alive after locking them into a room. This video was not shown again or anywhere else. Subhashini Ali personally visited the Bhavani Market, Hapur Road where the incident was supposed to have taken place. 36 unarmed police trainees were there on the 20th. When the lathi charge and firing started across the road, local people and shopkeepers ensured their safety. Some were locked up in a ground floor home and the others behind a shutter leading to a staircase going up to the first floor shops. They were kept there for more than an hour and when the area became peaceful, the police were contacted and they were taken away. This, unfortunately, is only part of the misinformation campaign that is being resorted to by sections of the administration probably to cover up their own acts of commission and omission.
Compensation to be paid to all those killed and injured;
Withdrawal of cases against innocent people and no attempts to impose fines etc. to be made
Action to be taken against police personnel revealed to have engaged in acts of violence and vandalism;
Complete disbanding of ‘police mitra’ vigilantes
A judicial enquiry into the entire sequence of events in the state after passage of the CAA, by a sitting judge of the Allahabad High Court to be set up