The jury of the People’s Tribunal on State Action in UP, a group formed to look into the action taken against people protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act, on Thursday expressed concern on its findings that the state machinery had acted with prejudice against Muslims.
“The jury of this People’s Tribunal is deeply worried and dismayed by the testimonies placed before it,” the statement read. “It is convinced that the entire state machinery, led from the top, acted with grave prejudice and perpetrated violence targeting one particular community, the state’s Muslim population, and the social activists leading the movement.”
At least 19 people have died in Uttar Pradesh alone during clashes between the police and those protesting against the amended Citizenship Act. The law approved by Parliament on December 11 and notified on January 10, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims, leading to protests against it.
There have been reports of the police in Uttar Pradesh denying medical aid to the injured, some of whom were not even protestors and were simply caught up in the demonstrations. Video footage and first-hand accounts emerged of policemen entering and ransacking Muslim homes, looting cash, beating up women and the elderly, and breaking the windows of cars.
The jury of the people’s tribunal collected testimonies from lawyers, human rights and civil society activists, eyewitnesses, doctors, and viewed videos of victims. It found that the Uttar Pradesh Police was “guilty of inflicting enormous violence targeting the Muslim community”, peaceful demonstrators, and even allegedly targeted a few not involved in the protests.
The statement highlighted several instances of alleged brutal police action, including the arrest and filing of cases against innocent people and threats to those who were detained. It added that thousands of first information reports were filed against unidentified people on charges that protestors had turned violent. It was done with the intention of “continued harassment and intimidation”.
“The jury found that political and administrative leadership has failed to control the widespread atrocities caused by the police,” the group said. “In several instances, the jury have observed that senior leadership such as the Chief Minister directed the police to use the strongest force against protesting citizens by using words like badla or revenge.” It added that the authorities’ decision to impose a ban on the assembly of more than four people or Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in several districts, snapping internet services violated people’s rights.
Many people testified that hospitals denied emergency medical aid to seriously injured victims, adding that this may have been done under pressure from the police and state authorities. The jury also took note of the prevailing anxiety within families of those impacted by the violence. It also condemned the alleged attacks on journalists, human rights activists and lawyers for speaking out against the injustice.
“Every single agency and mechanism that could have come to the rescue of children failed to do its duty,” the statement said. “It also reveals that even the best of laws cannot fulfill its purpose if the executive machinery does not wish to see it being implemented well and judiciously.” It further added that the police had been arbitrarily sending notices to recover costs of damage to public property without providing details. It highlighted that there was evidence to show the police was involved in destruction of private property.
“The state of affairs in UP shows a complete collapse of rule of law,” the statement concluded. “In fact, the very state administration that is charged with protecting the rule of law is perpetrating violence upon its own people.”