As Uttar Pradesh prepares for elections – and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is busy waving its five-year report card – the Yogi regime is particularly proud of the state’s law and order situation since 2017.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently during his recent visit to Muzaffarnagar took barb at Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and said that during the SP regime the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh was “poor”.
“Over the last five years, incidents of dacoity and robbery have decreased by 70% and 69.3%, respectively.” The number of murders has decreased by 30%,” Shah stated.
Shah claimed that the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh has improved since the Yogi regime came to power in 2017.
But let’s delve into data – according to the Indian Express report – since March 2017 – Uttar Pradesh police injured at least 3,302 alleged criminals in 8,472 ‘encounters’, while the death toll stands at 146.
The state police claimed that they do not keep track of how many of these alleged criminals were rendered disabled after being shot in the leg, senior officials of the police also stated that there isn’t any strategy behind causing such injuries in ‘encounters’.
According to Prashant Kumar, ADG (Law and Order) of the Uttar Pradesh Police, the high number of injuries in police encounters shows that killing criminals is not the police’s primary goal, but rather arresting them, Indian Express reported.
In January 2019, the Supreme Court referred to a string of such killings, stating that they require “serious consideration.”
In 2021 – CM Yogi Adityanath claimed that from March 30, 2017 to October 10, 2021, 13 police personnel were killed while 1,198 were injured. CM Yogi further added that the Uttar Pradesh police has taken action against 45,603 persons under the Gangsters Act and against 657 under the National Security Act, and seized, demolished or freed from illegal occupation.
Custodial deaths increased since 2017
According to India: Annual Report on Torture 2020 – released by National Campaign Against Torture (NCAT) – during the Covid lockdown from March 24 to July 31, 2020, India saw an increase in custodial deaths during the year, as well as over one suicide per week due to alleged torture in police custody. Highest number of custodial deaths were reported from Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat – 11 each.
Suhas Chakma, Coordinator of the NCAT stated that – “Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of reported cases of suicide as a result of torture.”
On July 27, 2021 – Nityanand Rai, Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Uttar Pradesh presented the state-wise custodial death data in the Lok Sabha’s Monsoon session.
According to the data released by the government – Uttar Pradesh leads the country in custodial deaths, with 12 police custodial deaths (PCD) and 452 judicial custodial deaths (JCD) in 2018-19, 3 PCD and 400 JCD in 2019-20, and 8 PCD and 443 JCD in 2020-21.
Though the National Crime Records Bureau in its data – stated zero police custodial deaths in 2019, which is in contrast with the record presented by Nityanand Rai in Lok Sabha in 2021.
Muslims dominate the list
In November – 2021- 21-year-old Altaf from Nagla Sayyad Ahroli was accused of eloping with a girl from Hindu community. On November 8, he was taken to Sadar police station for questioning in Kasganj, where he allegedly died while in custody. The police had claimed that Altaf died by hanging – but the police’s claims raised many questions.
How can a 5 foot man hang himself by a pipe that was approximately 2 feet long. Altaf’s mother alleged that her son was murdered in the police custody.
The family demanded a CBI investigation into the matter. The Uttar Pradesh government had announced the launch of a magisterial investigation into the death.
Altaf died in police custody three months ago, but Altaf’s father, Chand Miyan, says, “we demanded a proper investigation, but nothing has been done yet, nobody contacted us.” The Samajwadi Party paid us Rs. 5 lakh, but no one from the police authority approached us.”
Altaf, according to Chand Miyan, is the family’s main breadwinner: “I don’t keep well, I’m sick most of the time – people around us help us financially.”
Altaf’s uncle, Mohd Aijaz, told Maktoob that the Uttar Pradesh police contacted the family in January and asked them to appear in court.
“We were asked to give a statement in front of the judge in January, but when we went as per the notice, the judge wasn’t there, so we had to go again the next day – we gave our statement, but it’s been over 15 days and we still haven’t received any information on the case,” Aijaz stated.
Muslims that constitute 19% of population in Uttar Pradesh find themselves vulnerable to being targeted by the law agencies. Muslims working in meat businesses or slaughterhouses often find themselves in a vulnerable position – according to an Indian Express report – in March 2020 – a suspected cattle smuggler 24- year-old Afsar died in Mathura district after receiving a bullet wound while exchanging fire with police in the Chhaata police station area.
Between March 2017 and August 2021, 146 people were killed by UP police in alleged encounters – according to the Economic Times, approximately 37% of those killed in alleged encounters between 2017 and 2020 were Muslims. Nearly 45 people were killed in police encounters during CM Yogi Adityanath’s first year in office, with 16 of them being Muslims.
Out of 124 people killed in encounters between March 13, 2017 and August 9, 2020 – 45 belonged to minority communities, 58 belonged to Thakur, Vaishya, Backward, and SC/ST communities.
A 2021 report on Police Killings and Cover up in the State of Uttar Pradesh by Youth for Human Rights Documentation, Citizen’s Against Hate and People’s Watch – this report investigates the deaths of 18 young men in these 17 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings by UP police that the NHRC investigated.
Profiles of those killed in UP police custody
These case studies have been compiled by Youth for Human Rights Documentation –
The 17 cases were thoroughly investigated by the team of researchers for over a period of three years – out of the 17 deceased victims who died in the police custody – 15 belonged to Muslim community. These killings occurred between March 2017 and March 2018 in six districts of western Uttar Pradesh.
- Mansoor – a 35 year old man was allegedly killed by the Meerut police – there has been no trial of the 19 police officers involved in the alleged killing.
- Shamim – aged 35, was from the village of Sisauna in the district of Muzaffarnagar. On December 30, 2017, he was allegedly killed by officers from the Jansath Police Station in the district of Muzaffarnagar in the village of Bhalwa. So far, no trial has been held against the 18 police officers accused of killing Shamim. The police allegedly threatened and intimidated his family members.
- Furqan – aged 33 of Titarwada village in the district of Shamli. On October 22, 2017, he was allegedly killed by police officers from the Budhana Police Station in the district of Muzaffarnagar. So far, no trial has been initiated against the 16 police officers accused of murder. Furqan’s family members claim that the police have threatened and intimidated them.
- Waseem – aged 36, belonged to Jahanpur in the district of Shamli. He was allegedly murdered on September 28, 2017, near the Saroorpur Police Station in the district of Meerut. As of now, no trial has been held against the 19 police officers accused of murder. Waseem’s family members claim that he was 17 years old when he was killed and that the police have threatened them.
- Kasim – aged 40, of Vishambhara village in Mathura district. He was allegedly killed on 2 August, 2017 at his residence by police officers. So far, no trial has been held against the 28 police officers accused of murder. The family members claim that the police have threatened and intimidated them.
- Jaan Mohammad – 22, was from the village of Patti Bhojan in the district of Baghpat. He was allegedly killed in police action on September 17, 2017 within the jurisdiction of the Police Station Khatauli, Muzaffarnagar. No trial has been held against the ten police officers accused of murder.
- Noor Mohammad, 30, was a resident of Shyamnagar in the district of Meerut. On December 30, 2017, he was allegedly killed in police firing near Shatabdi Nagar in the district of Meerut. So far, no trial has been initiated against the 16 police officers accused of murder.
- Ehsaan – 46, was a resident of Village Teliwara, Shamli District. He was allegedly killed in police firing on March 25, 2018, within the jurisdiction of Police Station Kotwali Mandi. So far, no trial has been held against the 25 police officers accused of murder.
- Aslam – was allegedly killed by police on December 9, 2017 in Dadri, District Gautam Budh Nagar. So far, no charges have been filed against the police officers involved in the alleged killing.
- Shamshad – 35, was from the village of Sherpur in the district of Saharanpur. He was allegedly killed by police on September 11, 2017 in front of ITC Gate in District Saharanpur. So far, no trial has been held against the 23 police officers accused of murder.
- Sumit Gujjar – 20, was from the village of Singhawali Aheer in the district of Baghpat. He was allegedly killed by police on October 3, 2017 at ATS Chowk in Greater Noida. Despite the fact that the NHRC determined that the killing was a “fake encounter,” no trial has been held against the 19 police officers involved in the alleged killing. His family members have been intimidated by the police, and false charges of rape and dacoity have been filed by the police against them.
- Nadeem – 30, was a resident of Village Baagowali, Nai Mandi, Muzaffarnagar District. On September 8, 2017, he was allegedly killed by police firing in a village jungle in Karoli, District Muzaffarnagar. So far, no trial has been held against the nine police officers accused of murder.
- Gurmeet – from Nandanpur, Naagal, District Saharanpur. On March 31, 2017, he was allegedly killed in police firing near the Rankhandi Railway Crossing in the district of Saharanpur. So far, no trial has been held against the eight police officers accused of murder. When the family members attempted to file a complaint, they claimed they were harassed and threatened by the police.
- Naushad and Sarvar – lived in Village Bhura, District Shamli. Both were allegedly killed in the same incident of police firing on July 29, 2017 in Village Bhura, District Shamli. So far, no trial has been held against the 18 police officers accused of murder. Their family members claim they have been harassed and threatened by both state and non-state actors.
- Ramzani – from the village of Akbarabad in the district of Aligarh. He was allegedly killed in police firing on December 8, 2017 in Aligarh District. So far, no trial has been held against the 15 police officers accused of murder.
- Akbar – was killed in police firing on 03.02.18 in Village Gujjarpura, District Shamli. So far, no trial has been held against the 22 police officers accused of murder. The police have harassed and intimidated his family members.
Mangla Verma, Lawyer, YHRD, documented the report of the extrajudicial killings in Uttar Pradesh told Maktoob that “a trigger happy police force that normalises deaths and injuries caused during police action, is a dangerous trend for democracy. That this practice is encouraged by the state government in the name of crime control is deeply concerning as it promotes a culture of impunity where the police feel immune to law. Lastly, it creates a social culture which supports quick vigilante justice and has lost faith in the institutions of the justice delivery system.”
Verma clarifies that the case studies mentioned in the report are from Western Uttar Pradesh – where more members of the minority community have been killed in police encounters.
“This is not the case in Eastern UP, where many members of the Dalit and OBC communities have been killed in clashes,” Verma adds.
Verma stated that all the cases mentioned above have been closed by the police.
Similarly NHRC has closed the majority of cases after finding no violations.
“In our report, we demonstrated how the police and NHRC’s decision to close the investigation is illegal and violates criminal law principles. In a few cases, families have taken their cases to court, requesting an independent investigation into the police,” Verma said.
UN Human Rights expresses concern regarding custodial deaths
In January, 2019 – the United Nations Human Rights Commission – wrote to the Indian government expressing concern regarding increasing extrajudicial deaths in Uttar Pradesh. They mentioned detailed information to thegovernment on 15 of the cases, the majority of which involved poor individuals of Muslim communities.
As per the United Nation press release- the evidence gathered – the killings occurred while the officers were in custody. The police stated that the killings occurred during encounters and in self-defence in all of the cases.
“We are extremely concerned about the pattern of events – individuals allegedly being abducted or arrested before their killing, and their bodies bearing injuries indicative of torture,” the UN experts said.
“Office of the High Commissioner for United Nations Human Rights (OHCHR) demanded an immediate review of Uttar Pradesh police use of force to ensure that all law enforcement operations were conducted in accordance with international standards, as well as prompt, independent, and thorough investigations into all allegations of potentially unlawful killings and the prosecution of perpetrators.”
According to an Indian Express report, all 74 ‘encounter’ deaths investigated by Uttar Pradesh police between March 2017 and July 2020 received a clean chit during magisterial investigations, while in around 61 cases – closure reports filed by the police have been accepted by the court.
As per the National Human Rights Commission, 1,067 people died in custody in the first five months of 2021, raising serious concerns about the state of India’s police and law and order.
This story first appeared on maktoobmedia.com