During the anti-CAA protests in Uttar Pradesh in December 2019, police fired at protesters in several districts, killing 22 Muslims and injuring many. Based on several complaints from members of civil society organizations, the National Human Rights Commission has now started its investigation.
New Delhi: Two years after the Uttar Pradesh Police killed 22 Muslims, injured a large number of people and destroyed property of Muslims during anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests on 19 December 2019, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has finally started investigating the allegations.
The investigation was started in October 2021 under the chairmanship of Investigating Officer Rajveer Singh, based on several complaints from members of civil society organisations.
One such complaint was filed by Henry Tiffange and Maja Daruwalla, which exposed the complete disregard for fundamental rights in Uttar Pradesh in December 2019.
Along with this, arbitrary arrests made by the police, including custodial torture and illegal detention of minors, were also mentioned.
crackdown on protesters
During the anti-CAA protests across the country in December 2019, when it was learned that the Citizenship Act was amended to give citizenship to illegal migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and that these illegal migrants from these countries are not Muslims.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has openly threatened the protesters of the state with dire consequences, saying he will take revenge on them and those who are destroying the state’s property.
This demonstration intensified when the CAA was passed on 12 December 2019. People took to the streets and demanded restoration of the constitutional promise of secularism of the country.
However, the BJP-ruled states took strong action against the anti-CAA protesters, which in fact appeared to encroach upon the fundamental rights of the dissenters.
When civil society, community organization members and concerned citizens jointly called for an all-India protest against the CAA on 19 December 2019, Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was invoked across the state, under which any There is a ban on the gathering of four or more people in the area.
At that time human rights activists were placed under house arrest and internet was shut down in many districts for ten days.
On 19 December itself, when anti-CAA protesters gathered, the Uttar Pradesh Police opened fire on dissenters in several districts of the state, killing 22 Muslims and injuring many.
The police also allegedly destroyed properties of Muslims. Most of the people killed and injured in this incident were daily wage laborers.
Soon after, several complaints were filed by civil society organizations and several members of the NHRC, including independent investigations into police rule violations and the formation of investigation teams not only by police officers but also by special officers of the NHRC.
testimonies of victims
The investigation records conducted by the NHRC in October 2021 contained detailed statements of people who had lost their family members in police firing.
These testimonies were given by the families of the victims themselves before the NHRC team. Some family members even shared videos of the police destroying properties of Muslims in Muslim-dominated areas. It can be seen in these videos that the policemen are using abusive language especially towards Muslims.
The NHRC also recorded personal testimony of those who were injured in the police action.
Some people who were injured in police firing in Kanpur and Firozabad later received notices, accusing them of causing damage to public property and forcing the police to pay heavy bribes.
In these two years since the anti-CAA protests, the families of the victims are being repeatedly threatened by the administration and police officials and they are not even given post-mortem reports.
These people allege that they have been warned many times not to speak against the police and not to go to other cities for justice.
The NHRC’s investigative team has also taken statements of those who were arrested on false charges and tortured in police custody even though there is no mention of torture in the medical reports of these people.
The testimonies of these people show that to what extent they were tortured to suppress their dissent and for being Muslim.
Some of these people did not even take part in the anti-CAA demonstrations, but still they were picked up from their homes in the middle of the night. Those who were in police custody were threatened. Such threats were made by policemen of many districts.
In February 2020, the Uttar Pradesh government admitted before the Allahabad High Court that 22 people had died during anti-CAA protests in December 2019.
However, despite the passage of two years and the lawyers and activists demanding justice, even an FIR could not be registered against the accused policemen in this case.
In Meerut, Bijnor and Kanpur, the victims’ families tried to register FIRs by writing letters to senior police officers and filing petitions under Section 156(3) of CrPC.
In fact, under this section of the CrPC, the police can be compelled to register an FIR on the basis of the order of the magistrate, but till now no FIR has been registered in the case.
An FIR was registered in Firozabad but the police claim that the accused is an unknown rioter. The order of NHRC is awaited in this matter and the families are waiting for justice.
(The author is a research scholar with Quill Foundation, New Delhi.)
(Click here to read this report in English.)
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