A fact finding report reveals the horrific details of detention and torture of minors by the UP police
The ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR) have brought along with them news of brutal attacks on protestors and worse, the attacks on minors, especially by the Uttar Pradesh police.
The Quill Foundation, Citizens Against Hate and HAQ: Centre for Childs Rights formulated a committee to look into the detention and torture of minors in Uttar Pradesh, in the districts of Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Firozabad and other places.
The report shows that the abuse of minors is spread across two primary districts of Muzaffarnagar (14 minors) and Bijnor (22 minors), both of which have more than 40% Muslim population and a high concentration of national minority institutions where children from across the country are studying.
The many forms of torture
The UP police allegedly beat the minors with batons and lathis who were arrested every two to three hours on the lower parts of their body rendering them unable to walk. Not only this, they were not provided any blankets in the bone-chilling January winter.
“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 on Sunday night. Till then I was in custody where they beat me brutally,” Y said. (Bijnor)
Y’s mother too recounted the horror. She said, “At last, Y came home after two days with his toes crushed and bruises on his body. He was barely walking and his lower part of the body had turned blue due to beatings by the police…. They were given severe beatings during their period of detention. They were first taken to Bijnor Police Lines and then shifted to a farmhouse owned by a BJP MLA. During their illegal detention, Y and others were beaten up mercilessly by the local police officials and were not even given blankets in the spine-chilling cold winter night…. It was the most shocking thing to hear the account of those two days from Y”.
It was just physical assault that the minors had to face. They were reportedly tortured by way of sleep deprivation. In Bijnor, a minor said that, even though temperatures dropped to 6 degree Celsius, no warmth or sleeping arrangements were made for any detainees. Moreover, the minors were not allowed to sleep and if they did, were brutally beaten.
“I pressed my fingers against my eyelids to keep my eyes open.” Said 17-year-old E. “If you nodded off, the guards would hit you with a stick.” (Bijnor)
Using psychological torture to get the minors to testify for the crimes they didn’t do, the UP police in some cases refused to let the minors visit the washroom to relieve themselves and in some cases even refused drinking water when they were thirsty.
“First the police gave us all water, which we drank because we were thirsty.” Said B. “But then we realised we would be beaten every time we wanted to pee.” (Bijnor)
“They refused to give us water and said that if we are so thirsty, we should drink their urine.” said a student who didn’t want to be named…” (Muzaffarnagar)
Syed Asad Raza Hussaini, Founder and Principal of the Madrasaxi in Muzaffarnagar said: “On Fridays students observe fast. They asked for water to break fast that evening. They were all denied water. Police abused and passed derogatory remarks against Islamic religious figures – the prophet. They were forced to say Jai Shri Ram.” (Muzaffarnagar)
The UP police told the detained children of Bijnor that the reason for their detention and abuse by police was in order to “teach them to never attend a public demonstration again”. All five minors confirmed that they were not only detained along with adults but also made to witness them being tortured.
“I was pushed inside a big hall where about 150 people were detained and were being beaten up. I saw many young people and children in the age group of 15-16 years in the group as well. Police officials were beating everybody present in the hall. While one police official had Torture Testimonies 6 held the hands of the detainees, the other police official was raining lathi blows mercilessly on bare bodies.”(Bijnor)
Post the arrests, the police also released posters with pictures of persons who ‘allegedly’ protested in the anti-CAA rally. Due to this, many young boys whose faces were used in the poster were sent away by their parents fearing police action.
In Raukhedi, Jalalabad, District Bijnor, the community reported how the police barged into their homes late at night and vandalized property while threatening families to cooperate with the police.
Finally, to paint themselves to be followers of the law, the police allegedly contacted madrasa officials / heads asking them to give statements saying no beating or torture took place. In return, they said they would release everyone still in custody, otherwise cases would drag on.
Violation of Laws and Standards
Violation of the Juvenile Justice Act – Detention of every minor that took place in the two districts is a violation of the JJ Act and the Rules made under the Central Government and the U.P. State Government.
Both Model Rules and the U.P. State Rules on Juvenile Justice clearly require that no child shall be apprehended for petty or serious offences. Registration of FIR and apprehension is allowed only for heinous offences, and that too if such apprehension is necessary in the best interest of the child. Going by the list of offences figuring in the FIR in Nagina, all the offences are either petty offences or serious offences as per Section 2 (45) and Section 2 (54) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
According to the JJ Act, a Child Welfare Police Officer / Special Juvenile Police Unit is responsible for producing the child before the Juvenile Justice Board within a period of 24 hours. However, as mentioned in the testimonies, no minor was produced before any Board and instead all of them were held for longer than 24 hours without any accountability. Neither were any of the children placed under any Child Welfare Police Officer. This means that under no circumstances, should a child be placed in a police lockup or lodged in a jail. All minors detained in UP were not only detained in police lock ups but also tortured and made to witness police torture.
The ‘General Principles of Care and Protection of Children’ – dignity, equality, care, best interest, right to be heard, safety, privacy and confidentiality, non-stigmatising semantics, non-discrimination, restoration to their families at the earliest – all of these were flouted by the UP police.
In revealing their identities by means of posters and circulating pictures of these minors, the police also violated their privacy, something which is prohibited by the JJ Act.
The UP police also violated the human rights principles of the UN Child Rights Convention (UNCRC). The UP police did not abide by any national or international standard operating procedure and in no way was a child’s well-being their concern. In fact, the torture they subjected the children to was a direct and immediate threat to the children’s life.
The stand of the UP police, State and other ‘welfare’ agencies
Bijnor superintendent of police Sanjeev Tyagi claimed to be unaware of any minors being detained and instead asked the journalist covering the incident for evidence. He said, “When we told him that the children had said that they had been in the lockup, and had been released, he asked for their names so he could check, and said that this was the first time that he was hearing about it. Tyagi insisted he had not received any allegations of brutality, and so no investigation was taking place. If he got a complaint, he said, a probe would take place.”
With regards to violence against children in UP, the government has not taken cognizance or issued any statements. Instead, in a video, the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath guaranteed that “badla” (revenge) will be taken against protestors. On 27th December, 2019, justifying the UP police crackdown on anti-CAA protestors, he said that the police actions have “shocked” protestors into silence.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) issued a notice to all Director Generals of Police in all states citing the misuse of children as “shields”, a violation of the JJ Act 2015. However, any form of police excesses failed to find mention in the notice issued.
The Uttar Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (UPSCPCR), instead of condemning the violence, offered further impunity to the police. In a notice issued to District Magistrates, it asked for a report on minors being used as “human shields” by protestors. Again, no mention of police excesses was found.
Recommendations of the fact-finding committee
Post their findings, the members of the Quill Foundation, Citizens Against Hate and HAQ have come up with recommendations for the UP government and the National Human Rights Commission so that they can take action against the errant police officials and other government officials who allowed the torture and detention of minors.
It asked for a time bound (3 months) judicial inquiry on police action from 20.12.2019, focusing on child rights violations as per state and national laws. Directions based on inquiry to be acted on within specific time period with the aim to include a) justice for minors and their families and b) accountability of officers responsible.
It also recommended that the minors be compensated for the physical, mental and psychological violence and loss suffered by them and counselling of the victims and their families.
Apart from this it asked for a judicial inquiry and age determination of detainees under 21 years to be conducted according to rules prescribed under Section 94 of the JJ Act, 2015; apart from issuing a public notice regarding rights of minors, especially vis-a-vis police action and Rule 8(3) of the JJ Act, 2015 and UP JJ Rules, 2019.
Close to 41 minors are/were allegedly detained and subjected to custodial torture. Of these, 22 minors were detained and tortured in Bijnor and 14 minors in Muzaffarnagar. Of the latter, FIRs were filed against four minors who were released after 12 days of detention. Some minors did not receive legal aid. An 8-year-old was killed in a stampede and two minors sustained bullet injuries in Lucknow.
The police forced the family of the 8-year-old minor to conduct a high-security burial. They intimidated and induced fear in the citizenry post the arrests of the children through torturing their families, attaching their assets and asking them to compensate for the loss of public property during the violence at the anti-CAA protests.
Reports of the UP police sexually torturing detained minors also surfaced, where some of the boys in custody allegedly had to be hospitalized with cases of rectal bleeding.
With the government not holding the police accountable for its crimes, how will these minors get justice and who will give it to them?