Horror stories were retold at a meeting of activists from UP convened by the People’s Union of Civil Liberties in Mumbai recently.
The meeting was held in Bandra and saw more than 600 people in attendance to listen to the story of “People under Seige: state violence in Uttar Pradesh”.
In a series of no-holds barred testimonies, activists from six groups across UP, including the National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM), Rihai Manch and Swaraj Abhiyan, Varanasi, revealed the extent of police brutality. “The state government of Yogi Adityanath, who himself has criminal cases against him, has gone mad. Since he directed the police to crack down in the name of law and order, 17,000 have been arrested under the Gangster Act, 19,000 under the Goonda Act,” said Rajeev Yadav of Rihai Manch. He himself now ha cases against him, “for asking questions of the government”.
Yadav further declared that those suffering are mostly Muslims, then Dalits and OBC. “Who heard of NSA being employed so casually, encounters used so freely? We are constantly reminded that we are not dealing with Chulbul Pandey or Singham Daroga.” The references are to rather affectionate portrayals of police officers from Bollywood movies of Salman Khan and Ajay Devgun.
On social media, Yadav said, there was Director General of State police (DGP) O P Singh warning people not to take their children for the protest on December 19. This mean the violence was expected and that the police seemed intimidated instead of planning for the event.
Robin Verma, human rights activist participated in the Parivartan Chowk protest in Lucknow. Next day he was picked up by plainclothes policemen along with a journalist from The Hindu, and kept in custody for 15 days before being released on bail. He was beaten up, subjected to slurs. Then, Yadav said the Manch began to realise that anyone he spoke to on his phone, was being picked up by the police.
Similar stories were told by the other participants in the meeting. Arundhati Dhuru of NAPM said when the police entered AMU, their brutality exceeded all limits, resulting in a Ph.D student losing his sight, grenades being hurled by the police, and students being sexually molested on the premises. More importantly, she declared, a month after firing claimed as many as 30 lives in UP, the police had not completed forensic reports to establish who had done the firing.
For days after the firing took place, the UP police had maintained that protestors had themselves opened fire. Then it began to emerge that the police had indeed opened fire, leading to many deaths, some of them minors.
S C Rai of the Swaraj Abhiyan in Varanasi pointed out that in Varanasi, he got arrested with 70 people, out of which only 13 were Muslims. The others were Hindus out of which 13 were Dalits and 22 were from OBC. “It’s not a protest by a single community but by the whole nation”, he said, to loud applause.
There is diversity in India, and that is why there is unity, not the other way around,” said Rai. “Lack of diversity needs no unity,” he added.
Written by journalism student Nitya Narasimhan. Pictures by Annet Anandraj
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