A people’s tribunal has concluded that the Uttar Pradesh Police resorted to violence on innocents during the recent protests against the anti-Muslim Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The tribunal that included retired Delhi High Court Chief Justice AP Shah, retired Supreme Court judge Justice B Sudarshan Reddy and historian Professor Irfan Habib held a day-long session in the premises of the Indian Supreme Court on Thursday to hear the first-hand account of the police brutality from activists, doctors and lawyers.
Several activists and victims of the police brutality shared their harrowing experiences before the tribunal. They alleged how the UP Police had selectively targeted only Muslim protesters by firing at them even at the slightest provocation. They said that Hindu names of the protesters were omitted from the FIRs even though they were part of the same group of protesters.
The People’s Tribunal concluded that the state machinery had acted with prejudice against Muslims in Uttar Pradesh.
This comes a day after the International Commission of Jurists, an international human rights group, asked the Indian government to investigate the use of excessive and unlawful force by the Uttar Pradesh police against demonstrators protesting the enactment of the discriminatory amended Citizenship Act.
“The high death toll of peaceful protestors in Uttar Pradesh highlights the use of excessive force by the police, in contravention of international standards of policing and human rights. The state and federal governments must investigate any death or injury that occurs during protests by law enforcement officials and to ensure access to justice to victims and their families,” Sam Zarifi, ICJ Secretary General had said in a statement.
The briefing paper prepared by the ICJ was based in part on first-hand interviews with witnesses and victims, documents the unnecessary, excessive and indiscriminate use of force by the Uttar Pradesh Police. At least 19 people were killed and scores injured since 11 December 2019. The Uttar Pradesh Police, which reports to the state’s BJP government led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, used firearms as well as teargas, water cannons, and batons to counter peaceful protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The statement issued by the ICJ said that individuals interviewed by it also reported that they had not been able to get their medico-legal certificates and victims’ families reported inability to access postmortem reports.
The ICJ said that the right to life and freedom from ill-treatment is protected under international law including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which India is a party and requires that when arbitrary deprivation of life occurs, there is accountability and reparation for victims.
The Allahabad High Court has taken suo moto cognisance of a letter sent by lawyer Ajay Kumar and has treated it as a basis for the commencement of a PIL. Kumar’s letter had alleged that ‘the situation in the State of Uttar Pradesh is antithetical to core constitutional values and warrants interference of this Court.’