Repression of Journalists, Minorities on rise in UP: PUCL report

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Gagging the media and repressing minorities through various means is nothing new for now but shocking revelations have been made in the ‘Human rights manifesto of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Uttar Pradesh – Dialogue with voters and contending parties for parliament election’.

Released on April 7, 2024 by General Secretary of PUCL Uttar Pradesh Kamal Singh and having Seema Azad as its president besides Advocates Ravi Kiran Jain, Syed Farman Naqvi and KK Roy as its patrons, the report carrying data collected from various sources including NHRC, NCW, NCRB besides different media reports presents a telling tale of deterioration in Human Rights scene in Uttar Pradesh over the years.

138 attacks on journalists have been reported in recent years

According to the Committee against attack on journalists, a total of 12 journalists were murdered in Uttar Pradesh between 2017 and 2022, 48 journalists were physically attacked while cases were registered against 66 journalists, and arrests were also made in many cases.
Twelve journalists were threatened, spied on, or detained. In all, 138 attacks on journalists have been reported in recent years. The report stated, India was rapidly falling in the World Journalism Index.

Journalists working like government horns

As per the report, most journalists were not independent but were working like government horns and the journalists who still continued to undertake fearless journalism were being arrested, or other measures of repression were being initiated against them.

Increasing cases of repression of minorities

The PUCL-UP report mentioned ‘Uttar Pradesh had become a stronghold of Hindutva politics in country. Since the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, crimes against minorities, especially Muslims, had increased at official level, that is, these crimes were often being committed with the aid of government machinery’.

Anti-CAA protests – 22 people shot dead by police, including 8-year-old child

When Uttar Pradesh became a stronghold of protests against the Citizenship Act, mentioned the report, it was not only because of the anger of the Muslim community towards the Citizenship Act, but also because of the government campaign that was being run for the last several years to project Muslims in mass as terrorists.

“The kind of repression by the present government on this movement is illegal in itself. On December 19, the government imprisoned hundreds of people due to the demonstrations across the state. Officially 22 people were shot dead by police, including an 8-year-old child. According to report of human rights organizations, death toll reached to 34. The most viciousness was meted out to people in Lucknow and Kanpur. People were beaten up badly, tortured in police stations, women were molested. A large number of PUCL UP, 8 social workers was also put in jails and their bail was blocked by government. In Lucknow alone, charge sheet was filed against 297 people associated with this movement, in which 18 people were slapped with NSA and 68 accused with gangsters act cases, 28 people were charged under the Goonda Act,” it further mentioned.

300 accused of damaging public property, told to deposit Rs 64 lakh within 7 days

About 300 people were accused of causing damage to public property and a notice was sent to them to deposit Rs 64 lakh within 7 days. Also, pictures of all these people, including many social workers, were released as criminals at intersections of Lucknow, though the allegations have not yet been proved. This is a violation of the privacy of anyone, which is a right given by the constitution.

120 NSA cases reach HC, all accused were Muslims, 94 detentions quashed

The PUCL-UP further revealed that many human right organizations had released detailed reports, which exposed the whole story of communalism within the government system, especially police system. During this period, 120 cases of NSA from 32 districts of Uttar Pradesh came to Allahabad high court. All the accused in it were Muslims. Out of these, 94 detentions were ‘quashed’ by High Court.

Fake cow slaughter cases slapped against Muslims

It had become a common practice with the Uttar Pradesh police to send Muslims to jail by accusing them of cow slaughter to prove them religiously evil. In 2020, 41 such cases which reached High Court turned out to be so fake that 70 percent of these cases were quashed and the rest got bail easily. The increasing number of fake cases in this manner has put the right to life of this section at great risks.

Due to the communal attitude of the police towards Muslims, the percentage of under trial prisoners in the jails of Uttar Pradesh is about 29 percent, while their population in the state is only 19 percent and the percentage of convicted prisoners is 22.

37 percent victims of fake encounters were Muslims

Even in Uttar Pradesh’s notorious fake encounter cases, the communal mindset of police is exposed by the fact that in 02020, 37 percent of the victims of such alleged fake encounters were Muslims.

Attack on Christians

In 2020, Uttar Pradesh cabinet came up with the ordinance ‘The Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion’. As the name suggests, it is supposed to check unlawful
Conversion but because of its wide ambit, it has been used multiple times by right wing groups against Christian individuals by way of wrongly implicating them in allegedly false cases. In April 2022, at Fatehpur district, 55 Christians had gathered at the Evangelical Church for a religious gathering when more than 200 members of a hindu right wing fringe group stormed in raising slogans ‘Jai Shree Ram’. When the pastor called the police, the latter instead decided to book the 55 individuals who were present there, while letting the hooligans go scot free.
But this was not a one-off incident. As per the PUCL report, there have been other cases where the police have targeted Christian groups and filled FIRs with identical information. In a report by Article-14, it was found that in the 37 bail orders by UP district courts, quality of investigation was questionable. Hence this specific law from UP and four other states has been challenged in the Supreme Court which is still pending, stated the report.

PUCL Demands

On the basis of all these facts and figures, cases of human rights violations in Uttar Pradesh were in an alarming condition and needed to be addressed immediately.

PUCL patron and senior lawyer KK Roy said that all political parties should ensure to protect human rights and the Constitution after coming to power. He said that all efforts should be made to stop any such party or organisation from coming to power, which was out to divide the country on the lines of religion and caste.

PUCL demands that all the contesting political parties should focus on these issues and include cases of human rights violations in their agenda and save Uttar Pradesh from becoming an undemocratic and police state.

The report has been compiled and written by Seema Azad with Charlie Prakash, Chittajit Mitra, Mridula Mangalam and Saurav Kumar.

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