“Communal nature of Tripura Police,” lawyers’ bodies condemn UAPA against fact-finding team members

Tripura Police have registered a case under the draconian UAPA against Mukesh of PUCL and Indori of NCHRO on Wednesday and notices, under Section 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), were sent to both lawyers.

The lawyers groups All India Lawyers Association for Justice (AILAJ) and All India Lawyers Union (AILU) released statements condemning the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act charges against two lawyers advocate Mukesh and advocate Ansar Indori who were members of a fact-finding team to Tripura, to uncover the “targeted attacks on Muslims” in Tripura.

Tripura Police have registered a case under the draconian UAPA against Mukesh of PUCL and Indori of NCHRO on Wednesday and notices, under Section 41 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), were sent to both lawyers.

The UAPA notices to lawyers, according to AILAJ, betray “the communal nature of the Tripura police and attempt to suppress the reality of these communal incidents.”

Both the lawyers have been asked to appear before the West Agartala police station by 10 November.

Apart from UAPA, the charges against Mukesh and Indori include sections 153-A and B (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc), 469 (forgery for purpose of harming reputation), 503 (criminal intimidation), 504 ( (intentional insult with intent to provoke the breach of peace), and 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The notice also demanded the lawyers to “immediately delete these fabricated and false statements/comments made/circulated by you in the social media.”

“Inclusion of such a direction (to delete social media posts) is a clear presumption of guilt on the part of the police, and a violation of the cardinal principle of presumption of innocence,” read AILAJ’s statement.

All India Lawyers Union urged the authorities to “stop persecution of lawyers and activists” and to withdraw the draconian charges against the fact-finding team members.

The fresh UAPA cases, according to AILU, violate democratic and constitutional rights of lawyers.

AILAJ also demanded that the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court be holistically implemented, by “initiating necessary proceedings against the organisers and perpetrators of communal violence resulting in the destruction of property, instead of issuance of false and for release cases.”

The fact-finding team consisting of Supreme Court lawyer Ehtesham Hashmi, Advocate Amit Srivastav from Lawyers for Democracy, Advocate Ansar Indori of the National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO), and Advocate Mukesh, on behalf of the Civil Rights Organization People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) released their findings on the anti-Muslim violence in Tripura, at Delhi’s Press Club on Tuesday.

The Tripura’s BJP government and state police have been claiming that there was no law and order problem in the state and no mosques were burnt by Hindutva groups despite media including Maktoob reported several anti-Muslim crimes across the northeast state.

Tripura police said that the groups from outside had concocted a conspiracy against the administration to create unrest in Tripura and malign the state’s image by uploading fake photographs of a burning mosque on social media.

Fact-finding report

“It was a targeted violence against Muslims,” says a group of Supreme Court lawyers who carried out a fact-finding visit to Tripura following the violence unleashed by Hindutva groups against the northeast region’s minorities.

A report released by advocates from the SC and human rights activists Ehtesham Hashmi, Amit Srivastav, Ansar Indori, and Mukesh visited the northeastern state, showed that Hindu nationalist groups Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and Hindu Jagran Manch held violent protests and rallies across Tripura following Bangladesh violence.

During four-day-long violence against Muslims, 12 mosques, nine shops, and three houses belonging to Muslims were targeted, according to the fact-finding team.

The lawyers also visited the Chamtila masjid in the Panisagar region and found that the masjid was vandalised. Tripura police had repeatedly claimed that the Chamtila mosque was not vandalised and the reports are ‘fake.’ ‘The claims of Tripura police are wrong,” said the fact-finding team.

During the rallies, Hindutva mobs raised slogans insulting Prophet Mohammad and the copies of the Holy Quran were burnt by rioters while attacking mosques and Muslim houses, the report found.

JCBs were seen in the rallies, local villagers told the fact-finding team.

Maktoob reported more than two dozen hate crimes against Muslims including mosque vandalisation, attacks against Muslim houses, shops, and hawkers, molesting Muslim women, and anti-Muslim and genocidal slogans during the rallies.

The latest violence was a “result of the irresponsibility of the administration” and “extremist organisations,” lawyers said.

The group Lawyers For Democracy said the assaults on Muslims could have been prevented if the police and administration had taken strict measures.

“Four days before this incident, Muslim organisation Jamaat-E-Ulema (Hind) met with Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Dev and informed him that such incidents could take place and there is a danger to the peace between Hindus and Muslims. Despite this, the government not taking any action is tantamount to sponsoring this violence,” said the lawyers in the report. 

The report also talks about the police inaction during and after the violence. Many Muslims tried registering a complaint on violence but the police just sent them back, according to the report.

The group called for an inquiry committee headed by a retired High Court judge to be set up to probe the incidents and filing of separate FIR based on the survivors’ complaints.

“Due to this incident, all the people whose businesses have suffered financial loss should get appropriate compensation by the State Government and it should be compensated soon so that these innocent people can get their life back on track and their businesses and work can resume smoothly,” the report said.