In the first week of September, five anti-CAA protesters were detained under the National Security Act in Uttar Pradesh’s Mau district for the violence that erupted in the districts’s Dakshintola area in a clash between anti-CAA protesters and the UP Police from December 2019.
“All five of them were first booked under various sections of the IPC, including attempt to murder, rioting, criminal conspiracy etc. They secured anticipatory bail. Then the UP government responded by booking then under the UP Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986 after which they were booked under the National Security Act. They’ve been loaded with cases that it has made it nearly impossible for them to be granted bail,” Arshad Jamal, who has been Mau municipal corporation chairmen for two terms, till 2017, told The Quint.
The five who have been detained are Asif Chandan, Aamir Honda, Anas, Faizan and Wahab Ghani, all between the age of 20 to 40 and residents of Mau, who were first picked up UP Police on 22 June.
In December 2019 there was widespread violence in Mau. The police lathi charged, there was stone-pelting from both sides, several bikes were burnt, a portion of the compound of the local police station damaged and set on fire, shots fired etc. Additional police force was brought in from neighbouring districts to bring the situation under control. Hundreds were arrested in midnight raids and five FIRs filed over weeks, however of the hundreds arrested only these five persons have been booked and arrested under the NSA until now.
The Quint spoke to locals and members of a fact-finding committee that had visited the district early January this year to find out what happened in December and what it means to be booked under the NSA.
Who Are These 5 Men?
Asif Chandan (38), Anas (27) and Aamir (28) have been booked under five FIRs. These are FIR 246, 247, 249, 250 and 590. Whereas the remaining two, Faizan (24) and Wahab Ghani (38) have been booked under FIR 246, 247, 249 and 250.
Asif Chandan is All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) district president and Faizan, an active party worker, Chandan’s brother Shahid said.
“Wahab Ghani was in jail and not getting bail at all. However the stress of the arrest and everything has made him mentally disturbed inside. He began to say random things and lose his mind. The jailer recommended to the district magistrate that he be moved to a mental health facility in Varanasi. Ten days into being moved he was booked under the NSA,” Jamal, who has been overseeing the legal aid for all families, said.
The sections against all of them include 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 332 (voluntarily causes hurt to any person being a public servant in discharge of his duty as such public servant), 336 (whoever does any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 307 (attempt to murder), 395 (dacoity), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 120-B (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house) amongst others.
“The pattern is that they do not want anyone to step out of jail. They do not want opposition. They want to crush any voice that speaks against the government and its intentions. Hence the invoking of NSA now,” Jamal added.
Which brings us to what happened on 16 December, the competing narratives and the fact-finding report.
The Police Version
The then Mau Superintendent of Police, Anurag Arya, has maintained that the protesters got violent and the police had to engage in violence to disperse the crowd.
According to the Mau police, a group of people gathered at the district to show solidarity with the violence at the Jamia Millia Islamia campus on 15 December in Delhi. During this protest, a youth from the crowd pelted stone on a bus coming from Azamgarh side. This is when there was panic on all sides and people began to run. While the police tried to disperse the crowd through lathi charge the violence continued to rage. A large number of people burnt bikes. They even went to the Dakshintola police station and burnt the bike inside the premises. They broke a wall of the police station as well. Additional police force had to arrive to bring the situation under control.
Raids were conducted almost immediately to nab the accused.
On December 25/26, Mau district police released a poster carrying photographs of 110 people to identify them.
What the Fact-Finding Report Says
A fact-finding team went on 8 January to Mau to ascertain what led to the violence The team was led by United Against Hate member Tamanna Pankaj, Delhi University law student and UAH member Sabah K, Student Islamic Organisation member and Aligarh Muslim University alumnus Fawaz Shaheen and lawyer Maitreya Gupta.
In their report note, accessed by The Quint, they’ve written on 16 December, following news of the police action at Jamia and AMU the previous night, a spontaneous protest procession was taken out between Dakshin Chowk and Mirza Hadi Chowk in Mau.
“This procession began gathering around 2 pm and concluded around 5 pm, by which time most protesters had dispersed. Although the protest was taken out peacefully, lathi charge and firing of tear gas shells into the crowd broke the protesters into different uncoordinated segments. A few of the isolated segments of protesters engaged in stone pelting and vandalism, including at the Dakshin Tola Police Station.”
Jamal said that the police started fire unprovoked. “The protest was happening and everything was fine. They moved from Sadar chowk to Mirza Hadi chowk when the crowd swelled to thousands. The protesters stayed there for two hours and everything was fine. They were making way for traffic to pass. The police unprovoked started lathi charging the young boys which made them angry. Then there was stone pelting, motorcycles were burnt, the thana Dakshin Tola boundary wall was broken. Police shot bullets that day, repeatedly, and tear gas. It was because of the bullets as well that people got more angry. Motor cycle inside was also burnt down. No one died.”
Speaking in defense of his brother Chandan, Shahid said, “I have not spoken to him for the last two and a half months. My brother was doing well in politics and becoming a notable face in the area. Someone must have given his name to hurt him. There is no truth in these allegations.”
Jamal said that dissent was intrinsic to a democracy (Asahamati loktantra ki ruh hain) and these arrests are making it hard for anyone to survive. “This is the police behaving like hooligans. I am known to be someone who will honestly tell people what I think and it is extremely obvious that the UP Police is carrying out the demands of the state government. They have spread hate like nothing before. They want to crush any kind of opposition.”
Mau police has issued arrest under NSA for at least two more people, The Quint has learnt. “This is not going to end anytime soon,” Jamal said.
What Does it Mean to be Booked Under NSA
The National Security Act is a stringent law that allows preventive detention of a person for months, if the authorities are of the opinion that he/she would be a threat to national security or law and order in terms of:
- the defence of India;
- the relations of India with foreign powers;
- the security of India;
- the maintenance of public order; or
- the supply of essential services
The person does not need to be charged during this period of detention. The goal is to prevent the individual from committing a crime. The National Security Act 1980 (NSA) is a law which allows the Central or State Governments to detain any person to prevent them from doing anything prejudicial to:
People detained under the NSA are not allowed to hire a lawyer to defend themselves. The government can detain them for repeated three-month periods, can withhold the reasons for their detention for ten days, and representations by the detenu against his or her custody are to be made before a special Advisory Board, not the courts.
The Quint asked Delhi-based noted criminal advocate Satish Tamta what it means for five people, already booked in several FIRs, to have the NSA slapped on them. Tamta said, “The number of FIRs is a contributing reason to justify invoking the NSA. These are only preventive measure, not punitive or intended as punishment. Preventive detention can not extend for an unlimited period, maximum is one year.” Regarding the legal recourse available to them, Tamta said, “Article 21 they can challenge detention under NSA through a writ petition in the high court, while they simultaneously move bail applications in various FIRs in the trial court.”