U.P. Police brutalised children in anti-CAA protests: report

Published : February 15, 2020 13:35 IST

Picture of a minor with leg injuries featured in the report.

Close to 41 minors were detained and suffered custodial torture at the hands of the Uttar Pradesh police in the aftermath of a massive clampdown on anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests, alleges a fact-finding investigation by civil society organisations.

Around 22 minors were held in Bijnor and 14 in Muzaffarnagar. First information reports (FIRs) were filed against four minors who were released after 12 days of detention in Muzaffarnagar. Two minors continue to be held under detention in Firozabad and have not received any legal aid nor have their cases received any media coverage, states the report “Brutalising Innocence” released by Quill Foundation, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights and Citizens Against Hate. An eight-year-old boy was killed during a stampede that followed police action against anti-CAA protesters in Varanasi. The boy's parents were forced to conduct a high-security burial one hour after the body was returned, according to the report. In Lucknow, two minors sustained bullet injuries.

“I kept telling them that I am physically challenged. But they wouldn't listen. They put me in a police van and started beating me up non-stop,” states the testimony of a boy from a district hospital in Bijnor where the bandages on his fractured hand were being changed.

A 17-year-old from Nagina, who was kept in detention for two days, said, “Mostly they beat us on the lower parts of our body. I was not able to walk properly for 15 days. The police detained me on Friday and released me on Sunday night. Until then I was in custody where they beat me brutally.”

All detained minors that the fact-finding team spoke to testified that they were beaten with police batons and made to witness violence inflicted by police on detained adults. Tortured children returned home with bruised body parts and fractures. In Bijnor, where night time temperatures dropped to 6 degree Celsius, police made no heating or sleeping arrangements for any detainee. Moreover, they were not allowed to sleep and if they did, they were brutally beaten, testified the children. During detention, minors were denied basic rights like access to drinking water and food. Instead, they were beaten or rebuked if they asked for water or wanted to use the toilet.

In Muzaffarnagar, minors were fasting (roza) on the day of detention. Police denied them water to break their fast. In Muzaffarnagar, detained minors were abused, as were their religious figures. They were also forced to chant jai shri Ram slogans. In most cases, the police physically and emotionally threatened minors not to attend any more protests and stated this as a reason for detention. In Muzaffarnagar, minors were released only after their guardians signed affidavits testifying that there had been no ill-treatment or torture at the hands of the police. In an attempt to intimidate and induce fear within the citizenry, the report stated, the police publicly displayed posters with mugshots of protesters, including minors.

After the CAA was passed by Parliament on December 11, protests against the discriminatory law erupted across the country, including in 24 districts of Uttar Pradesh. Police action over the subsequent weeks across the State resulted in the death of 24 protesters or witnesses and 1,200 charge-sheets against citizens, including human rights defenders, while 5,000 people figured in unnamed FIRs. The police assaulted bystanders, vandalised homes belonging to minority communities, targeted educational institutions such as madrasas and colluded with non-state actors to produce an atmosphere of fear and unaccountability, according to the report.

The report showed that the abuse of minors was spread across mainly two districts of Muzaffarnagar and Bijnor, both of which have a more than 40 per cent Muslim population and a high concentration of national minority institutions where children from across the country study. Covering the incidents in districts like Firozabad, Varanasi, and Lucknow, the report documented the violation of national laws such as the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and the U.N. Child Rights Convention (UNCRC), which India ratified in 1992.

Given the blatant disregard of law by the police and their political masters, civil society organisations have demanded a time bound (three months) judicial inquiry on police action from December 20, focusing on child rights violations as per State and national laws. They have asked for directions, on the basis of the inquiry, to be acted upon within a specific time period with the aim of ensuring justice for minors and their families and the accountability of the officers responsible.