Civil society, lawyers, journalists and student activists under the banner of Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) released a report titled “The Struggle for Equal Citizenship in Uttar Pradesh and its Costs: A saga of omnibus FIRs, Loot, Arrests and Harassment of Muslim minority,” at Press Club of India, New Delhi on February 16.

The report aimed at registering protest against crackdown on the democratic protests for equal citizenship and its aftermath and police brutality resulting in the death of 23 innocent people in Uttar Pradesh. As per the report prepared by Safoora Zargar, Research scholar, Jamia Millia Islamia and Asif Iqbal Tanha with contributions from Nadeem Khan, a human rights activist, around 350 First Information Reports (FIRs) were registered regarding these protests against around 5000 named individuals and over 100,000 unknown persons. Also about 3,000 people (dominantly Muslim) were illegally arrested without any due process of law under fabricated charges.

The report also claimed that over 500 recovery notices for the damages to the public property were arbitrarily issued without any due legal process across ten districts worth an estimated Rs.3.55 crores. The Supreme Court recently termed the recovery notices as illegal and unconstitutional. Very recently, the Supreme Court said all orders issued by the Uttar Pradesh government to recover alleged damages to public properties from persons protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, in December 2019 deserve to be quashed because of procedural irregularities and non-compliance with its directions.

In a latest development, on February 18, the Supreme Court has directed UP government to refund crores to anti-CAA protestors. However, Uttar Pradesh government has informed the Supreme Court that it has withdrawn 274 recovery notices and proceedings initiated against anti-CAA protestors in 2019 for damages caused to public and private properties.

In the Foreword of the report, written by S.R. Darapuri, former IG, U.P Police, who was also arrested during anti CAA, NRC protest, said, “The Nation today is in the middle of the most serious crisis when all of its democratic institutions are under attack since the last eight years of Modi’s authoritarian rule. Judiciary, media, Election Commission, parliamentary democracy all are being pushed to the wall. Fundamental rights of the people are being undermined by unforeseen might of the state apparatus.”

Nadeem Khan, National Secretary of Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), while welcoming the order of the Supreme Court to Uttar Pradesh government to refund the money taken from the protestors as damage recovery, demanded to repeal  UAPA, AFSPA, NSA and justice to 23 killed In UP during Anti CAA, NRC Movement. While reminding the high-handedness and police brutality in the state, he said that in between 19 to 21 December in 2019, 23 innocents were killed and some were shot in the chest, eyes, abdomen, head, shoulder, face, throat and spine.

He demanded proper investigation, fair trial and speedy justice. The police force instead of performing their duty as per the guidance of the constitution and the law of the land worked under guidance of their political peers. According to him, police force appears to have been acting as a reserve police force of the Sangh Parivar.

Prof Apoorvanand, a noted social and human rights activist, in his concluding remark, said police officers cannot shirk their responsibility and simply get away by saying that we had received orders from the top to do so. Police officers at every level are accountable and they cannot run away from the responsibility they hold. It is important to say so that generally the bureaucracy and the police get away by saying that they had acted as per the order from top. We generally blame the politicians but at the same time we should also consider that in May or June newspapers are filled with success stories of selected candidates of UPSC and they are termed as the brightest brains of India. Therefore it is important to register how these brightest minds thereafter inflict atrocities on the people, how they do injustice and even become partners in crimes. We need to reiterate how bullets were fired, who fired, who gave order and under whose periphery it happened.

Hartosh Singh Bal, who is currently the political editor of The Caravan magazine, while emphasising the  need and importance of documentation of any kind of resistance, said, We all know atrocities were committed by the police force by hobnobbing with political force but what is most surprising is that those  who were involved in committing atrocities are investigating (the cases). In Uttar Pradesh there has been no investigation done. We have seen how the investigation has taken place in Delhi. Those who are writing truth or dissenting are being punished. As for the role of police, what we can see today cannot be possible in a constitutional democracy if our institutions had been working under the guidance of our Constitution.

Safoora Zargar, Research scholar, Jamia Millia Islamia; Asif Iqbal Tanha, student activist, Advocate Najmus Saqib Khan of Lucknow High Court, Aiman Khan, human rights activist, researcher and Advocate Mohammad Shoaib, lawyer, president of Rihai Manch also shared their personal experiences and talked on the report.

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