Lucknow: Congress worker and activist Sadaf Jafar along with retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer SR Darapuri, who recently got bail from a Lucknow court after being detained during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), have accused police of custodial torture.
“We were protesting peacefully along with teachers, professors and other members of civil society in Hazratganj area. All of a sudden, there was a huge mob that started pelting stones,” Jafar said, speaking to the media after her release. “We were standing on one side and I decided to do a Facebook Live from the spot and one can hear me clearly asking ‘where is the police and why are they not doing anything’. When the situation calmed down a bit, we decided to walk back to our vehicle. But suddenly police grabbed us and started abusing and beating us. We were hit with batons on our legs and were beaten mercilessly, after which we were taken to the mahila thana. There, women cops started beating me.”
Jafar said she kept asking the police to inform her family about her detention, but the request wasn’t heeded.
“After that we were hurled with abuses and taunts like ‘khaate yahan ki ho, and bajaate wahan ki ho (you eat here and sing tunes of Pakistan)’,” she alleged.
“Abuses of the worst kind were thrown at us including communal invective. I was held by the hair and hit on the stomach by a male policeman. At around 2am, when I complained about my blood pressure shooting up, I was taken to hospital and given an injection and brought back to the prison. The doctors were not allowed to give me medication for other bruises.”
Jafar alleged that innocent students who were on their way to coaching classes were also arrested by Lucknow police.
“Our protest and struggle will continue my party and my family all are standing firmly with me,” she said.
Protests have spread across the country against the amendments brought in India’s Citizenship Act last month by the Narendra Modi government at the Centre. The revised law, termed “anti-Muslim” by detractors, will help provide Indian citizenship to those Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and Parsi refugees who fled religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, and entered the country before January 1, 2015.
Septuagenarian Darapuri said he had been put under house arrest and a police team posted outside his house when the demonstrations were taking place. “I however held a placard and stood at my gate to register my protest. When I came to know about violence during the protests, I termed it wrong and said that a citizen peace committee should be formed,” he said.
“In the evening, they came and took me in their vehicle to Ghazipur police station; then again I was sent to Hazratganj police station. From there I was sent to a magistrate for my remand but I narrated my ordeal to the magistrate and he refused to give my remand to police and even chided the cops. Then I was again brought back to Hazratganj police station. I wasn’t given food while I was in police detention. They even denied a blanket to me in this cold. I had to somehow convey it to my son who then got a blanket for me. The next day I was taken in front of a judicial magistrate for remand and I again narrated my ordeal. I was arrested from my house, but the police showed my arrest to have happened the next day from some park. My statement should have been taken under section 161 but no statement was taken from me.”
Both Darapuri and Jafar said they have received recovery notices from the government for damages caused during the protests, and said they will challenge this legally. Police officials have denied their allegations about torture in detention.
“Inside the jail, the people who were arrested were mostly non-Muslims, contrary to the claims by authorities. People from all walks of life protested against CAA and 99 per cent of the arrests in this case are fake,” said Darapuri. “We will go to court and also to the human rights commission regarding my illegal detention and inhuman behaviour of the police.”
Darapuri, Jafar and several others were released on Tuesday morning after being granted bail. Police had arrested them on December 19 and 20 from Lucknow. However, authorities reportedly failed to produce any evidence of their involvement in the violence.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court last Thursday asked the UP government to file its reply within two weeks on a petition seeking quashing of the FIR against Jafar. The petitioners have also demanded that the investigation be conducted by an officer of the rank of superintendent of police and under the court's supervision.