An attempt to deflect public attention away from the state government’s shortcomings

Political analysts and journalists believe that the recent issue of notices is an attempt to deflect public attention away from the state government’s shortcomings, gathers Abdul Bari Masoud

Those accused of taking part in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) peaceful protests in 2019 are still being persecuted by the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh. Despite a Supreme Court rap, fresh damage recovery notices have been sent to the UP anti-CAA demonstrators. These notices were issued this time by a Claims Tribunal.

According to State officials, the police have handed a notice to 60 persons in Nahtaur, Bijnor district, asking them to pay `57 lakh in damages for injuries sustained during the anti-CAA/NRC protests.

The crowd allegedly vandalised government property and set a police jeep on fire during the protests on December 20, 2019, said Pankaj Tomar, SHO of Nahtaur Police Station.

He continued, alleging that the mob also attacked the police, who then opened fire in self-defence, killing two adolescents named Anas and Salman.

The police have given 60 accused people notices that they must pay `57 lakh in damages, the SHO added.

The Yogi government opted to file a claim for damages through the Claims Tribunal established by the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act, 2021 after its first attempt to do so under Supreme Court directives failed. District administration had previously issued the notices, which were then removed when the Supreme Court chastised the state government, but now the Claims Tribunal is issuing notices of a similar nature.

According to the Uttar Pradesh Shrink Recovery of Damages to Public and Private Property Act, 2021, those held responsible by claims tribunals for damaging public or private properties face a year in prison or a fine between `5,000 and `1 lakh.

Earlier, in February this year, notices were issued to 52 persons in Lucknow, including former Inspector General of Uttar Pradesh Police S R Darapuri, Rehai Manch president Advocate Mohammad Shoeb and Congress leader Sadaf Jafar. They were each issued recovery orders with the same amount – `64.37 lakh – from the ADM (Lucknow East). Interestingly, they were not present at the site of the protests.

There have been spontaneous protests around the nation since the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019 was introduced, passed by Parliament, and threatened to be followed by the introduction of an all-India Nation Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR). The amendment that excluded the Muslim community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan was criticised for its discriminatory nature. Against these discriminatory legislative and policy changes, a cohesive resistance developed.

However, the BJP-led administration in power repressed these demonstrations severely. The state-approved activities in UP where cops allegedly fired shots and lathi-charged defenceless demonstrators were among the most severe. Up to 23 persons perished as a result of this, and around 350 FIRs were made against at least 1,05,000 individuals in the state.

People who were unlawfully arrested and subjected to two years of torture in prison, according to a recent Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) study on the anti-CAA demonstrations and subsequent violence, were also issued damage notifications. While they were detained, their family paid the money at the police station. After people posted bonds, the state police refused to give them their money back. The SC has ordered a reimbursement on their behalf.

In Lucknow, the Claims Tribunal has served payment of damages notices to 52 persons. They have been asked to pay damages to the tune of `64.37 lakhs.

Speaking with Radiance, former top cop SR Darapuri I.P.S.(Retd) said he was also served the notice of damages whereas he was not even present at the protest site.

“I have also been served a notice. The notices are illegal as they are not accompanied by any Claimant’s application as required by law. The Tribunal rejected my demand for Claimant’s Application.”

He said he went to Allahabad High Court for a stay against the illegal proceedings of the Tribunal.

The ex-cop claimed that Yogi’s regime is hell-bent on harassing anyone who dared to criticise his misrule.

“The High Court has given a stay order against the order of the Tribunal. 22.11.2022 has been fixed for the UP state to file the counter affidavit. Actually, all the proceedings of the Tribunal are illegal as they do not comply with the provisions of the Payment of Damages Act, 2021. But the UP government is bent on harassing us,” Darapuri added.

Political analysts and journalists believe that the recent issue of notices is an attempt to deflect public attention away from the state government’s shortcomings.

Lucknow-based former editor and analyst Obaidullah Nasir said it’s time-tested tactics of the ruling party to divert the attention of the public from real issues.

Talking to Radiance, Nasir questioned the Yogi government’s double standard as it did not make any effort to do justice to 22 young Muslim boys who were allegedly killed by the police during the peaceful protests in the state.

“The alleged protesters in Lucknow are still plagued by the ghost of the anti-CAA protest, and sixty of them have just received recovery orders. Is it strange that the Yogi government is not attempting to apprehend the murderers of the 22 young Muslim boys who perished on that awful day, but is instead waging a war to recoup alleged public property damage? People have every right to demonstrate in democracies, and the anti-CAA protest was an expression of that freedom,” he said.

Can Yogi ji recall the loss of lives and properties during many of those protests which he leads as Hindu Yuva Vahini leader and Gorakhpur MP? How many cases he was facing that he himself withdrew immediately after becoming the CM of UP, he asked.

He underlined that this use of strong-arm tactics is intended to convey to people – especially Muslims – that any attempt by them to raise their heads would be met with ruthless suppression.

Another illustration of this undemocratic, illegal method of punishing individuals who dare to raise their heads without adhering to due process is the bulldozer justice, which Yogi introduced and which became a favourite among all BJP Chief Ministers.

The killings of 23 young people have not moved Yogi’s heart. The subject of compensation did not arise when there was no investigation and no attempt to capture the murderers.

When the opposition raised the killing incident in the UP legislative assembly, Yogi responded with laughter, “Who could save those who have come to die,” and the Speaker and the Treasury Benches began laughing out loud, revealing their true ruthless heart and a dead conscience.

When asked whether the relatives of the dead will receive any compensation, Yogi responded, “Wo dangaai thhe, aur dangaiyon ko compensation dene ki koi pravdhan nahin hai.”

Yogi should tell which court has convicted them and termed them as “Dangai”? Nasir asked.

He also underlined the role of the National Human Rights Commission, which is supposed to be a protector of rights violations.

“A delegation of Congress leaders led by Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi submitted a 700-page memorandum to the National Human Rights Commission with evidence of police brutality on that fateful day, including pictures and videos, but the Commission is yet to act on that memorandum even after roughly three years. This reminds us of a couplet of Faiz: “Yeh khoon khak nasheena tha rizqe khak hua”.

Human rights groups also took strong exception to fresh notices issued by the UP police. They termed the action illegal and arbitrary.

Speaking with Radiance, People’s Union for Civil Liberties’s Delhi Chapter president and noted advocate N.D. Pancholi said the notice of UP Police to 60 protesters seeking 57 lakhs in damages is totally unlawful.

The police have no right to fix arbitrarily the number of damages. Moreover, there should be a full-fledged trial of 60 persons to prove that they participated in damaging the property. The role and participation of each one has to be proved. This is an action without due course of law the notices are condemnable, he added.

There is no doubt since the advent of the Yogi government in UP, the state’s second-largest religious group is at the receiving end.

“Muslims in UP and other BJP-ruled states are facing the worst discrimination, injustice, and government cruelty something like the Jews faced in Nazi Germany. And the blame entirely goes to our judiciary which is keeping its eyes and mouth shut on this worst violation of constitutional rights of the second largest community of the country,” Nasir concludes.

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