'Reign of terror' in UP to crack down on anti-CAA protests; SC-monitored probe needed: Activists

NEW DELHI: Rights activists alleged on Thursday that there was a “reign of terror” prevailing in Uttar Pradesh to crack down on protests against the CAA and the NRC, and demanded a Supreme Court-monitored SIT probe to ascertain the truth about police action and killings in the state.

At a press conference held here by “Hum Bharat ke Log: National Action Against Citizenship Amendment” comprising several rights groups, activist Harsh Mander said according to law, the government could use the details gathered in the National Population Register (NPR) to identify people as “doubtful citizens” and then use it for the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

The Uttar Pradesh police and the administration have denied any excess or wrongdoing. Mandar alleged that the Centre was spreading “blatant lies” on the NRC and the NPR to forward its divisive agenda. He claimed that while people were fighting for the soul of India and the Constitution, the ruling establishment was acting on a three-point “playlist”.

They “communalise the issue”, spread falsehood and then “crush dissent with the use of excessive force”, he said. The former IAS officer also contested Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks that there were no detention centres in the country, saying he had been to several such centres where Muslims were also languishing.

Citing “police brutality” against Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) students, he alleged that it seemed that the entire state was at “an open war with a segment of its citizens”. “A reign of terror is prevailing in Uttar Pradesh,” Swaraj India leader and rights activist Yogendra Yadav said. Kavita Krishnan, who was part of a fact-finding commission that visited Meerut where people have died during anti-CAA protests, alleged that the police were framing false charges against people to crack down on such protests.

The group of rights organisations, in a statement, asked for an immediate end to “brutal suppression of dissent” and an independent probe into “police atrocities”. “For the last one week, Uttar Pradesh is under a reign of terror. The Uttar Pradesh government is employing unlawful and lethal tactics to harass and intimidate the citizens that are protesting against CAA and NRC,” the statement said.

“The goal is not just to suppress all dissent against CAA/NRC in Uttar Pradesh, but to send a signal to anyone who may dare to raise a voice against anything,” it added. After the press conference, Bollywood actors Swara Bhaskar and Zeeshan Ayyub read out an appeal, urging the courts of the country to take suo motu cognizance of what had ensued in Uttar Pradesh, and called for a judicial inquiry into the loss of lives and limbs and damage to public property.

“Irrespective of one’s views on the merits of the law, there is something more fundamental that all of us agree on, in line with India’s constitutional values — the right of citizens to protest peacefully; the duty of the state to respond proportionately, within the framework of law; and the ultimate role of courts in determining guilt and punishment,” the appeal signed by Bhasker, Ayyub, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Konkona Sen, Aparna Sen, Alankrita Shrivastava, Kubbra Sait and Mallika Dua said.

“We believe that all these principles have been undermined in UP, largely because of the excesses of the government. The fundamental rights to life and liberty, free speech, free movement, and association are also under great jeopardy in the state,” it added.

Stating that they “do not endorse or support any form of violence or vandalism”, the group said the “sacred right” of citizens to protest peacefully was violated in the state. Yadav, during the press conference with Mander, Krishnan and rights activist Nadeem Khan, demanded that the Uttar Pradesh government must “stop state-sponsored attack”, release innocent detainees and quash FIRs with a large number of anonymous accused.

A credible and independent inquiry by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the Supreme Court’s supervision should be set up to ascertain the truth about the protests, violence, police action and killings, he said. Institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission and the National Minorities Commission must take up the case suo motu (on its own) and institute immediate inquiries into the allegations of human rights violation and assault on minorities, Yadav said.

He said police officials and personnel, whose complicity in police atrocities was beyond doubt, should be suspended and all the guilty should be brought to the book. A suitable compensation should be paid to those injured in the police action and to the family of the deceased, and the citizens’ constitutional right to assemble and protest in a peaceful manner should be restored, Yadav demanded.

“In order to ease the climate of fear and suspicion and to allow a meaningful dialogue, the government of India must announce that it is not going ahead with the NRC and the NRC-linked-NPR,” he said. The rights groups also hit out at Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for his publicly announced “doctrine of revenge” against the protesters. “In a shocking audio tape in wide circulation, a senior police official can be heard saying that he has the CM’s instructions and full immunity to beat the violent protesters to pulp, so as to teach everyone a lesson,” Yadav said.

He also pointed to reports that Muslims were subjected to merciless beating and torture of various kinds.

“There are more than one reliable report of the police raiding Muslim colonies, entering homes, ransacking those and detaining people indiscriminately,” the statement by the group of rights organisations said. PTI