LUCKNOW: In the wake of the anti-CAA protests that took a violent turn in Uttar Pradesh last week resulting in the deaths of 21 people and leaving scores injured, the state police have drawn flak for alleged excesses. The protests led to the destruction of public property, arson and vandalism on December 19-20.
The National Human Rights Commission had issued a notice to UP DGP OP Singh seeking a report within four weeks in connection with the alleged violation of human rights by cops while quelling the protests.
Videos on social media showed cops destroying property or committing abuses of power in the state, especially in western UP districts.
A senior police officer in the rank of Superintendent of Police (SP) in Meerut city was also caught on camera asking people of the minority community to leave the country and go to Pakistan if they wanted to.
When Prashant Kumar, ADG, Meerut zone, was questioned over the controversial statement of SP (City) Meerut AN Singh, he accepted that there should have been a better choice of words by the officer concerned. However, he claimed that the situation was quite volatile at the time of the video and there was heavy stone pelting at cops accompanied by vandalism.
“The protesters were shouting anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans. Pamphlets of the PFI and CPI were being distributed. The police officers practised much restraint and avoided lathi charge and firing on protestors. But they were strictly told that they would not be allowed to riot in the city,” explained the ADG Meerut zone.
The ADG, however, questioned the intention behind releasing the video seven days after the incident. “If it was such an issue, it should have been released on the day it was shot,” he said.
On alleged videos and pictures shared on social media showing UP police entering homes and indulging in vandalism, UP DGP OP Singh said that if anybody had any grievance, they could always approach the local police and executive magistrates with their complaint. Even the SIT could also be approached and such complaints against cops would be looked into. “As has been made clear, we have not entered homes and fired at protesters,” said the DGP.
Almost a week after the protests, sensitive districts of Meerut, Aligarh, Shamli, Kanpur, Varanasi, Lucknow, Mau and Azamgarh remained peaceful and incident-free under a thick security blanket and surveillance from the skies.
However, this is not the first time that the UP police has drawn criticism for being partisan in its approach. Incidents like the Hashimpur massacre in Meerut in 1987 and the communal clashes in Aligarh in 1978 are chilling reminders.
Hashimpura massacre, 1987: The ‘anti-Muslim’ narrative around cops gained traction after the 1987 Hashimpura killings. Sixteen former cops of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) were awarded life imprisonment on October 31, 2018, for the massacre of 42 people of a minority community in Hashimpura locality of western UP district of Meerut in 1987 reversing the trial court’s verdict of acquittal of the accused. The HC had termed the massacre as "targeted killing" of unarmed and defenceless people by the police.
All 16 cops were penalised by the court for murder, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence under the Indian Penal Code 31 long years after the incident.
The incident had taken place on the night of May 22, 1987. The PAC cops were accused of the abduction of 50 Muslim men from Hashimpura locality of Meerut. They were allegedly herded in a truck and taken to a nearby irrigation canal in neighbouring Ghaziabad district and shot in cold blood. 42 of them died on the spot and were allegedly thrown in the canal. The incident had taken place after a communal flare-up during which rioters had allegedly snatched and taken away service rifles from the cops. Only 38 bodies were recovered from the canal.
In 1988, the UP government had ordered a CB-CID probe into the massacre. The final probe report had indicted 60 PAC and policemen of all ranks for the massacre. In all 19 police personnel were charge- sheeted in the case and 151 witnesses had testified during the hearing.
Aligarh flare-up, 1978: The PAC was criticised for its role in the communal incidents in Aligarh in October 1978. In a report submitted to the then Home Minister Charan Singh, the newly-constituted Minorities Commission recommended that the PAC be withdrawn from Aligarh and that it be completely overhauled with the induction of persons from the minority community in its ranks. The PAC was compared to the Nazi occupation armies by leaders like Syed Shahabuddin.
PAC revolt, 1973: PAC personnel had come out against the state government in a full-blown revolt that required the Army to quell it. PAC personnel indulged in arson and violence, tagging their demand for better wages and work conditions with an agitation by Lucknow University students. Thirty-five PAC personnel were killed. The mutiny led to the exit of Chief Minister Kamlapati Tripathi in June that year. However, PAC personnel did end up getting better wages and allowances.