Former civil servants of the All India and Central Services have written an open letter alleging a "complete breakdown of governance" and "blatant violation of rule of law" in Uttar Pradesh.
Pointing out that they have no affiliation to any political party but “are committed to the Constitution of India”, the 74 signatories of the letter go on to say that they are writing to convey their “deep anguish at what we see happening in UP”.
The letter has been endorsed by over 200 eminent citizens.
“We note with mounting alarm that the present ruling regime in UP has ushered in a model of governance, which swerves further and further away from the values of the Constitution and the rule of law with each passing day.”The open letter by ex civil servants
Further, claiming that it appears “clear that all branches of the administration, including the executive magistrates and the police, have collapsed”, the ex-bureaucrats have expressed concern over a variety of purported damages to the “polity and institutions in the state”.
‘Detentions, Criminal Charges, and Recoveries to Suppress Dissent’
These, as per the signatories, consist of:
Police attacks on peacefully protesting students in Aligarh Muslim University
Filing 10,900 FIRs against protestors
Police firing killing 22 people
Erecting hoardings in Lucknow displaying photographs of activists
Detention and torture of 41 minors
Journalist Siddique Kappan’s prolonged incarceration
'Encounter Injuries and Killings as Official Hate Targeting'
Between 2017 and 2020, 124 alleged criminals were shot dead in 6,476 “encounters”, according to data compiled and released by the UP police to the media.
“The 'encounter' campaign led by Adityanath crosses new lines, because data shows that most of those killed in these encounters are either petty criminals or innocents, against whom no charge has been proven. They are also predominantly Muslims, Dalits, and other backward castes.”The open-letter
“The fact that a significantly disproportionate percentage of those killed till August 2020 were Muslims carries its own message,” the ex bureaucrats add.
‘Institutionalisation and Legitimisation of Vigilantism'
Pointing out that members of vigilante groups such as the Hindu Yuva Vahini and other ‘cow vigilante’ groups that have enjoyed immunity for violent actions, the signatories of the ex-bureaucrats and police officers say:
“Members of these groups are appointed as “police mitr” or friends of the police, endowing them with authority and legitimacy, and enabling the police to work openly with vigilante groups. Recent administrative orders further institutionalise vigilantism under the garb of community policing through the ‘Prantiya Rakshak Dal’ and the ‘S10’.”
The ‘Love Jihad Law’, and ‘Biased Investigations and Arrests’
Pointing out that the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance was passed by a voice vote, even as the bogey of “love jihad” has “no empirical, legal or official standing”, the open letter states:
“This law has been used by the state to frame innocent Muslim men who have friendly or romantic relations, or enter into marriage, with Hindu women. In just a month after the Ordinance, 86 people were booked in 16 cases alleging conversion for love or marriage among Hindu women and Muslim men. 54 people were arrested, including friends and family members of the main accused. The key accused in all the cases are Muslim men.”
The letter also alleges that since its first advent in power, the anti-Muslim bias of the present UP government has been “open and uninhibited”. The signatories are further apprehensive that with the upcoming Assembly polls in the state, “such actions by the UP government, if not controlled, may cause communal polarisation and disturbances”.
‘Misuse of NSA in the Name of Cow Slaughter and Against Dissenters’
Condemning the National Security Act, 1980 (NSA) as a “draconian preventive detention law”, the signatories allege:
“…officials under the UP government have been using the law openly against mainly Muslims, Dalits and dissenters, for alleged offences that cannot be seen as a threat to national security. As per reports, of the 139 people booked under the law the year 2020, 76 are for alleged cow slaughter, 13 for anti-CAA protests, and 37 for alleged heinous crimes.”
‘Handling of the COVID Crisis’
Quoting the Allahabad High Court in it’s scathing observation of the medical services in the state “running at God’s mercy (Ram Bharose)”, the ex-bureaucrats write:
“As a case in point, Dhanoli village in Gorakhpur District did not have a single house without a COVID patient. Many of the PHCs in villages are shut or do not have any medical personnel. The people are left to fend for themselves. There are no testing centres available. Reports of patients dying due to non-availability of oxygen have been frequent in UP.”
Further, the letter points out that not only did CM Adityanath deny such paucity but also “the police proceeded to frame charges against hospitals that claimed oxygen shortage”.
“The most damning illustration of the government’s failure to provide healthcare to COVID patients was the gruesome spectacle of several thousand bodies floating in the Ganga river and buried in shallow graves in the sands along its banks. The world bore witness to the catastrophe that the people of UP had to endure owing to the failure of the government to act in time. Reports from crematoria show that across districts, deaths are being massively undercounted in Uttar Pradesh.”The open letter
What Else Does the Open Letter State?
The ex-bureaucrats have sought restoration of Constitutional norms, and raised demands such as:
Arbitrary detentions, torture, and police attacks on peaceful protesters be stopped and recoveries for alleged damage to property under an “arbitrary” law be discontinued.
The illegal and unconstitutional practice of “encounters” must be discontinued.
The institutionalisation and legitimisation of vigilantism must end.
This idea of “love jihad” – without legal, empirical, or official basis – must be ‘jettisoned’.
This misuse of NSA must stop and normal penal provisions invoked, if at all justified.
The COVID crisis must be handled with urgency and "the invidious tendency to shoot the messenger must stop".