At least 25 people have died across India in the aftermath of nation-wide protests against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act that was passed on December 12. Eighteen of those people come Uttar Pradesh. The state has seen the highest death toll and the most intense police crackdown on protests. Fourteen of the 18 victims died of bullet injuries.
The most recent death was a 30-year-old buffalo seller from Uttar Pradesh’s Firozabad district, who succumbed to a bullet injury on Thursday.
The Citizenship Amendment Act seeks to provide citizenship to people from six persecuted minority communities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan – but excludes Muslims from its scope. Many fear that the law, in combination with plans for a National Register for Citizens, will be used to target and disenfranchise Muslims, since Home Minister Amit Shah has repeatedly announced plans to implement a nation-wide NRC to identify “illegal migrants” in the country.
As protests against citizenship law and NRC erupted across the country, the police in some Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states began imposing Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code in specific parts of cities, towns or districts, to prohibit people from gathering in groups. The Uttar Pradesh police, however, imposed Section 144 in the whole state on December 19, making it effectively illegal for people to even protest peacefully.
Despite the ban on public gatherings, people in several districts in the state organised protests that were met with unprecedented police violence. Although the police claim that it was the protesters who initiated violence, numerous reports and videos indicate that in many places, the police not only attacked peaceful crowds with lathis, tear-gas and bullets, but also broke into people’s homes, vandalised private property and looted their money.
To understand the extent of chaos in Uttar Pradesh, Scroll.in has mapped out the 15 districts from which violence and police brutality has been reported.
Much has been reported about the brutal police violence towards student protesters from Aligarh Muslim University on December 15, and the ways in which arrested students were abused in police custody.
On Tuesday, a team of 13 independent investigators released a fact-finding report about the AMU violence, revealing “unbridled human rights violations” on students. The report claimed that the police had used stun grenades to attack students, even though stun grenades are usually used only in war-like situations. A student lost his hand to one of the grenades. The report also claims that police personnel shouted “Jai Shri Ram” while attacking students.
On December 19, at least three people were hit by bullets during protests against the CAA in Hussainabad in the heart of Lucknow city. Two of those people were teenage boys who were not a part of the protest but were caught up in the chaos of the violence occurring at the protest. The boys are now recuperating in hospital. The third, 32-year-old Mohammed Wakeel, lost his life after being shot while he was allegedly out to buy groceries.
After the violence, Muslim residents of Hussainabad alleged that the police raided and vandalised their homes while beating several people up. Videos and photos on shared social media revealed the extent of the damage done to people’s homes, shops and vehicles.
The police in Lucknow arrested at least three dozen people in connection with the violence on December 19, including activist and actress Sadaf Jafar, who ended up recording her own arrest on video while doing a livestream video from the site of the protest. She is still in police custody. Meanwhile, theatre actor and director Deepak Kabir was brutally beaten up by policemen on the same day when he tried to find out the whereabouts of some of his missing friends after the protest the previous day. He too has been arrested. Besides Jafar and Kabir, the police also arrested Mohammed Shoaib, a 76-year-old human rights lawyer, and Magasaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey.
At a protest in Meerut’s Lisadi Gate area on December 20, the police claimed that protesters began stone-pelting while residents claimed that the police opened fire at peaceful protesters. Five people died in the process. Later reports suggested that a sixth person, 24-year-old Aleem, also died in the firing. Among the many injured was a 17-year-old boy who was shot in the spine with a bullet.
The police also smashed windows of shops and vehicles in the Muslim-dominated area.
Days after the violence, posters of “wanted” men who participated in the protest emerged on walls of buildings in Meerut.
Residents of Bijnor district’s Nehtaur town told Scroll.in that on December 20, a gathering of Muslim worshippers was disrupted by a group of baton-wielding men who attacked residents along with the local police. Two men died of bullet injuries in the violence.
One of the victims was 20-year-old Mohammed Suleman, whose family alleges that he was picked up by the police on his way to the Friday afternoon prayers. His body was later found in another neighbourhood, with wounds indicating that a bullet had shot through his stomach and exited from his back. His family claims that he was shot at close range, and allege that the police took away his body and did not let the family near it during the postmortem. Although the police initially denied firing any bullets, the Bijnor police has now admitted that Suleman was killed by a bullet fired “in self-defence” by a constable, Mohit Kumar, who they claim was also hit by a bullet. Kumar is now critical in the hospital.
Video footage from Nehtaur accessed by Scroll.in showed policemen dragging an elderly man to a van, firing from rifles and shouting “Kill one or two of them.”
Two families from the Nazia Sarai area also claimed that the police broke into their homes, vandalised and looted them, tried to set fire to them and even threatened to sexually assault one of the women.
In Bijnor’s Nagina town, the police arrested at least 100 people for alleged violence, including five minors, the youngest of whom was 13 years old. The children told Huffington Post that they were violently abused while in police custody for 48 hours.
At protest of around 50,000 people in Muzaffarnagar’s Khalapar area on December 20, both police and protesters have blamed each other for initiating violence. The police used lathi-charge and tear-gas on the crowds, but denied firing any bullets. Six hours later, residents alleged that nearly 80 policemen barged into their homes and ransacked them.
Terrified residents told The Print that they had never felt such terror and fear even during the 2013 communal riots in Muzaffarnagar.
A 72-year-old timber trader, Haji Hamid Hasan, told The Telegraph that policemen who vandalised his home also assaulted him with a rifle butt, looted jewellery and Rs 5 lakh that he had saved for his granddaughters’ weddings, and told him that Muslims had only two places: “Pakistan or Kabristan”. The police also arrested his son, Mohammed Shahid.
That same day, a local Congress MP, Saiduzzaman Saeed, also claimed that the police and some workers from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh opened fire on peaceful protesters, set fire to parked vehicles, looted shops and broke into homes. A Hindu watchman claimed that the police had caught him but let him off after he revealed his name.
A 26-year-old hawker, Noor Mohammed, died of a bullet injury during the attack. His family was forced to bury him in Meerut after the local administration refused to let them bury him in Muzaffarnagar.
The police claim they have arrested 48 people for the violence in Muzaffarnagar so far, charging them with rioting, attempt to murder and disruption of peace.
At protests against CAA in Kanpur on December 20 and 21, protesters set fire to a police post and the police opened fire on the crowds, although it is unclear who initiated the violence. Thirty-year-old Mohammed Raees died of a bullet injury in his stomach after bleeding all night - his family claims he was shot by the police and they did not take him to a hospital because they were afraid of being accused of rioting.
Although the police initially denied firing any bullets on protesters, videos emerged later showing a policeman opening fire at people with his revolver. On Tuesday, a superintendent of police in Kanpur admitted that bullets were fired, but “in the air”, allegedly for “self-defence”.
After the violence, videos emerged of the city police vandalising shops and cars in the Begumganj area.
Violence at a protest in Rampur district on December 21 led to the death of 24-year-old taxi driver Faiz Khan, who was shot in the neck. His family alleges that Khan received no treatment for over two hours after he was admitted to a hospital.
Several alleged protesters were also arrested for the violence. Families of at least three arrested men in the Nai Basti and Bilaspur Gate areas claimed that the men in question were at home when the protests took place, but the police still arrested them from their homes.
On Tuesday, the district administration sent notices to 28 men in Rampur, holding them accountable for the violence and damage to public property, and ordering them to explain why they should not be fined for damages worth Rs 14.8 lakh.
In Varanasi, police violence towards a protest on December 20 triggered a stampede that left 11-year-old Sagir Ahmed crushed to death. The child was not participating in the protest but just happened to be there. Following the child’s death, the district magistrate of Varanasi mocked the tragedy by saying that such things “keep happening”.
Scroll.in accessed multiple videos indicating that the protest was peaceful before the police began attacking the crowd with batons. Like in other districts in Uttar Pradesh, the violence was followed by the police ransacking Muslim homes in the neighbourhood.
After the violence, the Varanasi police charged at least 56 arrested social activists with violent rioting.
Following protests in Mau district on December 23, the police arrested 21 people and released photos of 110 alleged suspects who they claim were responsible for violence that occurred during the protest. In Mau, Kanpur and Firozabad districts, the police have announced a reward of Rs 25,000 each for those who provide information on three such wanted people.
On December 20, 30-year-old buffalo seller Mohammed Haroon got caught in the midst of an anti-CAA protest in Firozabad district. A bullet fired by an unknown person hit Haroon in the neck. He died in Delhi’s AIIMS trauma centre on December 26.
At a protest in Sambhal district on December 20, several vehicles were set on fire and a 23-year-old driver, Mohammed Sheroz, was shot by a bullet in his lower abdomen. He died within hours, after his family was shunted from hospital to hospital without getting proper treatment.
On December 25, the Sambhal police arrested 48 people in connection with the violence and issued notices to 26 people for allegedly damaging public property during the protest.
Protests against the CAA turned violent in Bulandshahr district on December 20, with protesters resorting to stone-pelting and arson and the police firing tear-gas shells at the crowds. It is unclear who initiated the violence.
After alleged violence at a protest in Bahraich district on December 20, the police detained 38 people and registered six cases against protesters.
Following allegedly violent protests against CAA in Gorakhpur on December 20, the police sent notices for property damage to 33 people they claim were involved in the protests.
After alleged stone-pelting and violence, 65 people were arrested and 350 were booked by the Ghaziabad police on December 21.