Skip to main content

Peaceful protests: UP police’s behaviour "unlawful, violent", NHRC told to act

Pooja Shukla
Counterview Desk 
In a representation to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson Justice HL Dattu, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a well-known human rights organization, has said that the right to protest peacefully, enshrined in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, is being eroded across the country, citing several instances where the police are cracking down on those demanding action or raising awareness about legitimate issues.
Especially referring to the manner in which two young women student activists were allegedly targeted by the Uttar Pradesh Police because they exercised their “right” to peacefully protest, the representation cites the case of Lucknow University student leader Pooja Shukla, who has been on a hunger strike and who was protesting to demand access to her entrance examination results, was badly beaten by the Uttar Pradesh Police.
She had to be hospitalised, but has said that she plans to persist with her hunger strike. Shukla was seemingly targeted after she showed black flags to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in 2017, and was then imprisoned for one month, argues the letter to the NHRC, signed by CJP president Anil Dharker and secretary Teesta Setalvad.
Earlier this year, in June, says the letter, student leader Richa Singh, the former president of the Allahabad University student union, was protesting the leak of the Hindi examination paper for the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission (UPPSC) when she and several others were detained by the police, the letter states.
Singh was arrested after police started the lathi charge. She along with other students were booked under serious allegations “which are completely false” and were meant to play with students’ futures, the letter says, adding, while the others who were arrested were later released, Singh was in jail for three days.

Text of the memorandum:

It has come to the attention of the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) that the Uttar Pradesh Police is targeting student leaders, and employing tactics such as unwarranted arrests and physical assault to quash student protest. In recent weeks, two women student activists and leaders have been harassed, arrested, and even assaulted for exercising their constitutional rights.
On Wednesday, July 4, 2018, Lucknow University student leader Pooja Shukla, who had on Monday mounted a hunger strike after being denied access to her entrance examination results, was arrested and allegedly brutally beaten by the police. Shukla had, in 2017, waved black flags in front of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and had been imprisoned for one month following that incident.
When she was arrested on July 4, she was demanding the results of her entrance examination; she has alleged that they were being forcibly withheld by the university’s vice chancellor. Shukla was allegedly assaulted so badly that she fainted from dehydration and hypotension, and had to be admitted to a civil hospital in Lucknow.
 “My hunger strike will continue. They beat me, began the lathi charge on us and tore my clothes. I don’t know why they’re doing this. I have been detained and I haven’t seen any FIR lodged against me. I don’t know on what grounds are they detaining me,” she has said. Even today, as she is being treated in hospital, she is unsure of her fate: will she be detained or released?
In June 2018, Richa Singh, former president of the student union at Allahabad University, was arrested while protesting with several other aspirants for the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission (UPPSC). They were protesting the leak of the Hindi examination paper. While the others arrested with her were later released, Singh was jailed for three days.
Richa Singh
“Seven of us were arrested, as several individuals have been brutally beaten up,” Singh told “The Citizen”, adding, “An FIR has been lodged against all of us, the entire blame of setting a public property on fire is put on me. They alleged that I set the bus on fire, and instigated protesters to agitate in front of the UPPSC office, yesterday evening. They have no evidence to prove what they state.” Singh alleged that, during the protest, “one of the buses nearby was set up on fire, by few police officials present near the protest. We have the video with us. They set the bus on fire and then attacked the students and detained all of us from the spot.”
Targeting student leaders for demonstrating over legitimate concerns, because they have been critical of the government, violates their inalienable rights to the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. We appeal to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate the Uttar Pradesh Police’s actions against these two student activists, and recommend measures to protect them and their work, safeguard their constitutional rights, and hold those targeting them accountable.
While the Uttar Pradesh Police’s behaviour is especially unlawful and violent, increasingly we find that the behaviour of the police with peaceful protesters across the country, even in the capital city of Delhi, has been becoming violent. It is high time that the NHRC, mandated to observe and ensure basic standards of human rights protection, issues a strong advisory to the Central and State Governments on this unrestrained police behaviour.
Some of the states, in the prescribed police manuals, have laid down guidelines for regulating the use of force by the police. For instance the Kerala Police Manual, 1970 lays down a step-by-step procedure to deal with unlawful assemblies:
1. The police must invariably secure the presence of a magistrate where it anticipates a breach of peace
2. The decision to use force and the type of force to be used is to be taken by the magistrate
3. Once the order for the use of force is given by the magistrate, the extent of force to be used will be determined by the senior-most police officer
4. The extent of force used must be subject to the principle of minimum use of force
5. Use of force should be progressive – i.e. firearms must be used as a last resort if tear smoke and lathi charge fail to disperse the crowd
6. Common tear smoke which causes no bodily injury and allows recovery of affected persons should be used
7. When the crowd is large and the use of tear-smoke is likely to serve no useful purpose, the police may resort to lathi charge
8. Lathi charge can only begin if the crowd refuses to disperse after suitable warning
9. Clear warning of the intention to carry out a lathi charge should be given through a bugle or whistle call in a language understood by the crowd. If available, a riot flag must be raised. If the police officer in-charge is satisfied it is not practical to give a warning, s/he may order a lathi charge without warning
10. Lathi blows should be aimed at soft portions of the body and contact with the head or collarbone should be avoided as far as practicable
11. The lathi blows must not cease until the crowd is completely dispersed
12. If the crowd fails to disperse through the lathi charge, the magistrate or the competent officer may order firing
13. The fullest warning in a clear and distinct manner must be given to the crowd to inform them that the firing will be effective
14. If after the warning, the crowd refuses to disperse the order to fire may be given
15. The police are not on any account allowed to fire except on a command given by their officer
16. A warning shot in the air or firing over the heads of the crowd is not permitted
17. An armed force should maintain a safe distance from a dangerous crowd to prevent being overwhelmed, or increasing the chances of inflicting heavy casualties
18. Aim should be kept low and directed at the most threatening part of the crowd
19. Firing should cease the moment the crowd show signs of dispersing
20. All help should be rendered to convey the wounded to the hospital
21. Police officers must not leave the scene of disturbance before satisfying themselves beyond reasonable doubt about the restoration of tranquility

22. An accurate diary of all incidents, orders and action along with the time of occurrence should be maintained by the police. This will include an individual report by all officers involved in the firing.
23. The number of fired cartridges and the balance of unfired cartridges should be verified to ensure ammunition is accounted for.
How is it then that young and brave women leaders are treated with such brutality by the Uttar Pradesh Police? We urge that not only a notice be issued, but an overall examination of trhe conduct of the Uttar Pradesh Police with its citizenry is initiated by the NHRC.
Just over the past two months in Lilasi village in the Sonbhadra district, Adivasi women were brutally manhandled by the police, for which the NHRC has issued a notice to the SP and DM after a complaint by the All India Union of Forest Working Peoples (AIUFWP) and CJP.
The right to peaceful assembly including for the purposes of a protest has been found by the courts to be a fundamental right, traceable to the freedom of speech and expression under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(b) of the Indian Constitution[1] as held by the Supreme Court in several landmark rulings (Ramlila Maidan Incident and the Kerala High Court in Peoples’ Council for Social Justice v. State of Kerala). 
In one of these, a Full Bench of the Kerala High Court considered a writ petition in which reliefs were sought against the State to ensure that all demonstrations and public processions within the Cochin area were carried out without obstructing free movement and pedestrian traffic. 
The High Court observed that the right to assemble and protest was recognized by the Constitution and laid down certain directions for the conduct of public demonstrations/protests, including the giving of advance notice to the highest Police Officer of the district in which the protest was proposed.
The Supreme Court has also held that the State “cannot abridge or take away the right of assembly by prohibiting assembly on every public street or public place” but “can only make regulations in aid of the right of assembly of each citizen and can only impose reasonable restrictions in the interests of public order.” 
It was also held that it was acceptable for the regulatory authority to require that parties secure prior permission before holding a public meeting on a public street for “the right which flows from Article 19(1)(b) is not a right to hold a meeting at any place and time. It is a right which can be regulated in the interest of all so that all can enjoy the right.”
---
Slightly abridged. Read original memorandum HERE

Comments

TRENDING

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Preventing childhood deaths: India performs worse than Bangladesh, "equals" Pakistan

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released study, “The Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report 2018”, prepared by the International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has identified India among 15 other countries which are still far off the mark in achieving the targets of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD).

Some Hindu bodies in US defending BJP-RSS' divisive, violent activities: Agnivesh

Counterview Desk  Last week, Washington DC saw speakers at a religious freedom roundtable, chaired by the US Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, express concern over "eroding" space for religious freedom in India. Dr Mike Ghouse, executive director, of the Center for Pluralism in Washington DC, referring to the roundtable, said in an email alert that Indian-Americans have "a moral duty to prevent India from being labeled as a Country of Particular Concern by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)".

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

60 ex-civil servants seek release of CAG reports on Rafale, demonetisation before 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
As many as 60 retired civil servants have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to expedite the release of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports on demonetisation and the Rafale deal. The letter, signed mainly by former Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service officers, regrets that the status of the audit is "unclear”. According to them, “An impression is gaining ground that CAG is deliberately delaying its audit reports on demonetisation and Rafale deal till after the May 2019 elections so as not to embarrass the present government”.