—Raising deep concern over the disappearances of hundreds of the agitating farmers in Delhi, representatives of six human rights advocacy groups jointly said, “As many as 200 protesters have been detained, while many have been booked under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and Sedition sections in Delhi following the incidents took place at Red Fort on January 26”.
A press conference was organized by these groups—Khalra Mission Organization, Punjab Documentation and Advocacy Project, Punjab Human Rights Organisation, Lawyers for Human Rights International, People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Human Rights Law Network.
Accompanied by the representatives of other groups, Khalra Mission Organization patron Bibi Parmjit Kaur Khalra addressed the press conference seeking the intervention of Supreme Court into the human rights violations being done by the Indian security forces.
They also showed the list of FIRs registered by Delhi Police against the protesters.
“We write with collective concern as to farmers protest in Delhi which took place on the 26th of January 202, Republic Day. An estimated 200,000 protestors took part in a largely peaceful tractor rally that led to at least one death and resulted in the detention of 200 protesters, footage posted on social media showing people fleeing from police indiscriminately firing teargas at them and the detention and beating of protestors assembled at the Red Fort. There have been reports of protesters injured by the firing of live rounds. There has been at least one fatality of a farmer Navdeep Singh Hundal, a 26-year-old farmer from Uttarakhand at ITO in Delhi”, they said.
The statement issued on occasion reads, “Despite the Supreme Court of India having directed the Delhi police to decide to allow the protest on the 26th of January, there was an abject failure to properly police this protest which has led to these events, and the use of force was entirely disproportionate. At other protest sites there is footage of officers seen beating protesters with batons and attacking tractors and other protest vehicles with lathis”.
“Despite a sustained attempt to demonise the peaceful protests over months, from certain sections of the Indian media, the farmers have shown maturity, dignity and leadership. As with any large scale protests, there were sporadic incidents of violence, however these did not mar what was otherwise an overwhelmingly peaceful and successful protest. By contrast, there have been no violent incidents on the Singhu, Tikri or Ghazipur borders where the protesting farmers have been camping peacefully against the three new farm bills, for the last three months. The organisers of the protest have been congratulated from all quarters as to the success in which these organised protest of mass rallies have been conducted”, it reads.
It further states, “We remind the Indian authorities of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, which prohibits the use of firearms and ammunition by law enforcement that causes unwarranted injury or presents an unwarranted risk. The international covenant on civil and political rights states that firearms are not an appropriate tool for the policing of assemblies and must never be used to disperse an assembly”.
“In the 1980’s and 1990’s Punjab and Delhi has witnessed much bloodshed cycles of violence and counter-violence in which genocidal pogroms, enforced disappearances extrajudicial killings took place on a wide scale and have still not been resolved, for which thousands of victims still await justice. This year also marks the 35th anniversary of the notorious Saka Nakodar shooting in which 5 innocent protestors were gunned down in Nakodar, Jalandhar for which their families are still awaiting justice. No right-thinking person would wish to see any escalation of violence, retribution or a return to those dark days”, it reads further.
The human rights activists said, “The Police and State Security Services are now indiscriminately detaining people, slapping charges under UAPA, terrorism, sedition and anti-national conduct on hundreds of people associated with the farmers protest, including the Farmer leadership. The actions of protestors are neither ‘terrorist,’ seditious nor anti-national. They simply disagree with a Government policy”.
“The Government is now exercising extraordinary powers to deploy heavy security and disperse farmers protest and deny them the rights to freely protest, which is of considerable concern as the protesters are camped at various protest sites on Delhi’s borders”, they said.
They said, “We ask for the release of detained protesters, with reports emerging of their ill-treatment and torture in custody. An immediate CBI led investigation to establish the cause of the death and to investigate claims that he was killed as a result of police firing or whether it was accidental as has been claimed by Delhi police.The Supreme Court should preserve all CCTV of Delhi’s CCTV entry points to unearth the truth of how the violence was allow to happen”.
“Human rights organisations will continue to monitor ongoing developments, human rights violations and urge the Government of India to show restraint and continue to engage with the protesting farmers groups on the issue of the three farming laws. The shutting down of social media accounts, restricting internet services as well as cutting off electricity and water supply, where a large number of protestors are elderly and vulnerable”, they said.
They added, “The forcible attempts to remove the protesters from the protest sites is illegal, unconstitutional and arbitrary. The registration of FIRs against the farmer leadership not only complicates a very complex and delicate process in their ongoing dialogue with the Government but is also a severe and draconian attack on their fundamental right to protest as well as their constitutional right to object to these laws”.