For the past fortnight, India has been protesting the arbitrary implementation of newly minted citizenship acts, including the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The Uttar Pradesh Government, however, has had enough. From threatening to confiscate protestor properties to mass arrests and violence against activists from Lucknow to Bijnor, and Meerut to Agra — the state Government has not been leaving any stone unturned to quash any sort of dissent. (Quick recap: The new Citizenship Amendment Act provides a path to Indian citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities fleeing persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It leaves out Muslims very pointedly from this list.)
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““Jab neend aane lagi toh police wale daraane lage. Bole ki, ‘Soge kya tum? Soge toh aankhon ki dille nikaal doonga main.’ (When I was about to doze off, the police personnel threatened me. They said if I slept, they’d gouge out my eyeballs.)
This is 13-year-old Aalam’s* tale, who was detained by Nagina Police in Bijnor district of west UP, in the wake of protests against CAA-NRC on the evening of 20 December. He isn’t the only minor who was detained, with him, there were 21 boys who were rounded up by the police.
“He has not eaten, had a bath or moved since he returned. Every single time someone comes to the gate, he starts shivering with the anxiety of being picked up again. He only asks for water now,” Aalam’s elder sister and mother tell us, gesturing towards him, who has tucked himself in a heavy quilt in the middle of the room.”
Government ministers, in the meanwhile, have refused to meet the relatives of the two Muslim men killed during last week’s protest against the CAA in UP’s Bijnor district.
“Uttar Pradesh minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kapil Dev Aggarwal on Thursday refused to meet the relatives of two Muslim men killed during last week’s protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Bijnor district, Hindustan Times reported. However, the minister visited Om Raj Saini, who was injured in the violence that took place in the district’s Nehtaur area.
Aggarwal described the Muslim men and their families as “vandals”, PTI reported. “Why should I go to vandals’ place?” he asked. “How can those who are involved in vandalism and put the entire country and state in arson be social?”
The police have claimed that 20-year-old Mohammad Suleman was shot by a constable in “self-defence”. Suleman studied in Noida but was in Nehtaur because he had fever. His family claimed he was picked up by the police while he was returning from a mosque. His sisters told Scroll.in that he was a hard-working student who used to stay up all night to prepare for the Civil Services Exam. The police took him into a lane and shot him, the family alleged. The other victim was identified as Anas, also 20 years old.”
In the meantime, a large number of protestors, including teacher-artist-activist Sadaf Jafar have been lodged in Lucknow jail since December 19 for taking part in protests against the Government.
“Jafar and others have been lodged in a Lucknow jail since 19 December, 2019 when she was arrested while capturing videos of the protests taking place at Parivartan Chowk in Lucknow as aprt of the Anti-CAA protests. Since then, a delegation of Congress members, including senior leader and Congress state president Ajay Kumar Lallu, have met Jafar.
Confirming the allegations of torture in custody, Lallu said, “She (Jafar) had been beaten in a barbaric manner. Her hair was pulled, she was punched in the stomach and hit on the legs. Her wounds were still showing.” Medical help, however, is yet to be provided to her and others who were beaten up while they were in police custody.”
So, what now?
Prime Minister Modi was in Lucknow for two days last week. However, he did not comment on the high-handedness of UP’s police. Instead, he asked the protestors to control their actions — a statement that was widely parodied across the nation.
One can only cross one’s fingers and hope at this point.
Keep your eyes on this place. We’ll keep you updated.