People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) in collaboration with Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) is holding an Independent People's Tribunal on Police Torture against Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. The event is scheduled to take place on April 3 and 4, 2013 at Kamesh Hut Hotel in Varanasi. The specific objective of this event is to highlight and present a systematic account and assessment of the incidences of gross human rights violations suffered by the members of Muslim minority in the districts of Varanasi, Moradabad, Aligarh, Chandauli and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.
Human rights groups have reported multiple cases of discrimination by police against Muslims within Uttar Pradesh. According to National Human Rights Commission's statistics of 2009, over 50 per cent of the complaints of human rights violations is originated from Uttar Pradesh. Human rights organisations and other civil society groups working within Uttar Pradesh have shown increasing concerns on shocking and violent behavior of the state agencies, specially the atrocities and abuses by the police towards the marginalized unprotected sections of the society, particularly the Muslim minority in the state. Use of abusive language and ill treatment seems to have become a common practice on the part of the police whenever any member of Muslim community approaches them for justice. Muslims are victimized and targeted during the communal riots. They suffer due to the partisan attitude of the police towards them.
The people's tribunal will consist of seven-member panel of prominent judges, academicians, former police officials in front of whom the victims would provide necessary testimonies about their cases. A total of 40 cases will be deposited along with the testimonies of 4 experts on the topic. We would be delighted if you could collaborate as a partner in this event.
Lenin Raghuvanshi Executive Director Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights
Mathew Jacob Assistant Director Human Rights Law Network
Background and Objective of the Independent People's Tribunal Uttar Pradesh is most populous state of India. The fourth largest state in terms of people living below poverty line, Uttar Pradesh constitutes more than 30 percent of the total population. In recent years, the state has acquired the dubious distinction of having most repressive administrative set-up which is well demonstrated by increasingly higher incidents of human rights violations. According to National Human Rights Commission's data of 2009, over 50 percent of the complaints of human rights violations originated from Uttar Pradesh. Human rights organizations and other civil society groups working within Uttar Pradesh have shown increasing concerns on shocking and violent behavior of the state agencies, especially the atrocities perpetrated by the police on the vulnerable, marginalised and unprotected sections of the society, Particularly Muslim minority community. There are mass scale violations happening in UP which include torture in custody, rape, extrajudicial killings, more often on flimsy grounds. This is the situation despite the fact that the state has a legally empowered State Human Rights Commission to protect the liberty and dignity of the people. Such violent behavior or violation of individual right to life and liberty as guaranteed under the constitution of free India is often justified to maintain law and order in the society, security or in the guise of tackling terrorism. Muslims constitutes 18.5% of the population of Uttar Pradesh where they are the principle minority group. Muslims have not only suffered discrimination in social and economic development process historically but with the "tag of terrorism" in recent years they have also been subjected to worst forms of repression all over. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that innocent Muslims today not only fall victims of communal rioting but also suffer due to the biased attitude of the state agencies. Muslim victims are given selective treatment on their complaints and thereby denied the right to be treated equally getting equal protection before the law. Their rights, freedom and dignity are denied everyday just because they happen to belong to a particular religion. The need to ensure dignity and justice to minorities in the state has motivated the human rights organisations, civil society groups, legal experts, and academicians to come together to a public platform to voice their concerns. With this objective the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), and Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) have joined hands to hold an Independent People's Tribunal on April 3 and 4, 2013 in Varanasi with support of EU-JMN initiative for reducing police torture against Muslim Minority . The specific objective of this event is to highlight and present a systematic account and assessment of the incidences of gross human rights violations suffered by the minority Muslim community in the districts of Varanasi, Moradabad, Aligarh, Chandauli and Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. It is part of the systematic inquiry that seeks to identify and understand the patterns, its practices and the participants in the process of continued violation of human rights and discrimination against and torture of Muslim community members at the hands of state agencies like police. Human rights groups have reported numerous cases of discrimination by police against Muslims within Uttar Pradesh. In fact, people of Muslim community pass through a physical and mental trauma on a daily basis. Any act of terrorism brings enormous amount of stress and misery for ordinary Muslims because they are the ones who become the prime suspects. It is not only the state police which targets them but even common people tend to look at Muslims with suspicion. Today a large number of Muslim youths are being trapped in bogus cases under a planned conspiracy. Several media reports expose the fake encounters or extra judicial killings where Muslim youth were reported to be killed. Even the state treats its Muslim citizens vindictively. Talking to any Muslim youth on the bylanes of any city in Uttar Pradesh, one can know the horror tales that they have to pass through. They can be picked up by the police any time, day or night, for questioning. Being a Muslim or having a Muslim identity is or can be threatening because one is likely to be dubbed as a terrorist or having links with terrorist group and so on. This is how the state police treat anyone who has a Muslim name and is confronted by police. Use of abusive language and ill treatment seems to have become a common practice on the part of the police. The social pressure is so much that today Muslim youths are compelled to adopt Hindu names such Pappu, Pintu and so on. Keeping beard, wearing cap and loongi can invite trouble anytime.
Muslims in India face double dilemma. On the one hand they are labelled as anti nationals who have to prove their national loyalties and at the same time they are blamed, as being appeased as a community, by the right wing Hindutva groups. They are victimized and targeted during the communal riots.
The chronology of communal riots in Uttar Pradesh clearly demonstrates that such disturbances have taken place in cities and town where Muslim middle class have attained some degree of economic self sufficiency in the field of small and medium scale industry sector. Rioting not only takes heavy toll of life and property but official data show that it is the minority Muslims who become the major victims, riot after riot. Muslim community feels that the police and security agencies have a partisan attitude. In Uttar Pradesh, PAC has been accused of blatant misuse of power against the minority community. In case of any violent incident, FIR is registered in the name of unidentified persons and then gradually the entire Muslim community is harassed and ill treated in the name of questioning. In the course of investigation even children, elderly and physically handicapped are not spared; all have to bear the brunt of police brutality. In recent years a new trend is visible, that is, even the lawyers who are taking legal cases on behalf of Muslims are being threatened. Crime record data shows that the percentage of Muslims in jails is much higher than their percentage in total population. Though, voices are often raised even in the Indian Parliament that innocent Muslims should be freed. But the question remains that even if they are out of jails, would those innocent be able to live in the 'outer' world with the same dignity? Will the society accept them and permit them to live as part of their family? These are the issues which require scrutiny in contemporary times.
Cases and Expert Opinions For the purpose of organizing this people's tribunal, we have selected about 40 cases of victims, which have been documented and would be deposed before the jury members in the IPT. These are representative cases clearly representing a pattern, a reflection of a reality which is much bigger than these 40 cases. In some cases FIR has been lodged but no action has been taken by the police. In some cases, it has been found that police authorities have avoided registering the cases. In some cases it was found that when victims tried to take the help of police to seek justice, but instead they were falsely implicated by the police and their harassment by the police authorities continued. Almost all the cases, to be deposed in the IPT, have been previously submitted by the victims to various state authorities and institutions like SSP, DGP, Minority Commission, Women's Commission and National Human Rights Commission but so far they have not been able to receive any relief in their quest for justice. These cases represent violations committed all over Uttar Pradesh. These violations refer to crimes or negligence committed by the state institutions such as police inaction after an FIR, no action after FIR, false investigation report, torture, ill treatment of the victims etc. The nature of violation covers civil and political rights of the victims.
In addition to the victims' testimonies, five experts working on the issue of rights of minority community will share their experiences of working in the field of human rights. This panel of experts is comprising of prominent members of civil society organizations and academicians who have been involved in studying and understanding the plight of the marginalized sections of the society at the grass root level as well as at the policy level. Today, the paradox of human rights is that even while proclamations are made, the rights are denied to large section of the people.
Mission of the jury members Jury members are requested to make their observations on the state of human rights in Uttar Pradesh and the role of various state agencies and institutions in fulfilling the objectives of constitution which assures right to life and liberty to all its citizens without discriminating on the basis of caste, class, gender or religion. After hearing the testimonies of the victims and making further enquiries with them, the jury members will issue interim observations and recommendations at the end of the event. A report will be prepared on the basis of the details of the testimonies along with jury's recommendations. The reported document will be submitted to the National Human Rights Commission, National Minorities Commission, National Women's Commission, Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh, Ministry of Minority Welfare, Chief Minister of UP, Prime Minister of India, different political parties, Home Department and Chief Justice of India. It will also be released to the press. For the advocacy of these cases, RTI applications will be filed so that victims get justice and rule of law is established.