It was midnight at a police barracks in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and in a freezing windowless room about 150 Muslim men and boys sat huddled, bloodied and bruised. Some of the shivering prisoners had raw gashes across their hands and faces, others had broken limbs splayed out at awkward angles. The beatings from police came frequently, according to multiple corresponding accounts; to those who asked for water or closed their eyes in drowsiness or simply did nothing at all. Over and over, metal rods and bamboo canes hit soft human skin. Some had been stripped of their clothes. The youngest among them was just 12 years old, said witnesses.
How hundreds of innocent Muslim residents of the city of Muzaffarnagar came to be rounded up on 20 December, before being tortured in police detention, is part of what Indian activist and academic Yogendra Yadav described as an unprecedented and ruthless “reign of terror” imposed upon the country’s most populous state over the past two weeks.
Since last month, India has been engulfed in the biggest nationwide protests in over four decades. People of all religions, classes, castes and ages took to the streets in opposition to a new citizenship amendment act (CAA) passed by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and his Hindu nationalist BJP government, which many say discriminates against Muslims and undermines India’s secular foundations. The government has dealt with the dissent with increasing repression, with authorities banning gatherings of more than four people and demonstrators met with batons and tear gas.
Nowhere has the crackdown been so brutal and so openly communal against the Muslim communitythan in Uttar Pradesh. According to accounts given to the Guardian by dozens of victims, witnesses and activists, police in the state stand accused of a string of allegations: firing indiscriminately into crowds; beating Muslim bystanders in the streets; raiding and looting Muslim homes while shouting Islamophobic slurs and Hindu nationalist slogans; detaining and torturing Muslim children. The allegations further include forcing signed confessions and filing bogus criminal charges against thousands of Muslims who had never been to a protest. [Continue reading…]