As nationwide protests against the recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Act escalated in mid December, news reports of police brutality against the protestors began to surface. The police killed protestors in Mangalore, and in Delhi, it fired bullets at students, lobbed tear-shells, detained and beat them brutally. The Uttar Pradesh police’s brutality stood out even amongst these horrific accounts—in the past month, the police of the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state has been accused of killing over twenty persons, of arbitrarily detaining and torturing hundreds of Muslims, of destroying the personal property of citizens to intimidate them, and of torturing young teenaged boys in its custody. The police has consistently denied all allegations, even as video and reported accounts of horrific and illegal police brutality continue to emerge on social-media and in news reports.
The Bijnor district was among several areas in Uttar Pradesh where, according to the eyewitnesses, the police used excessive force to quell the people’s demonstrations against the CAA. On 20 December, locals in Nehtaur said they had merely closed their shops in solidarity with the marches across the nation. Yet, the police cracked down on them brutally. The locals said that the police broke into their houses, vandalised their belongings and molested the women occupants. Among the policemen, locals said, there were also non-uniformed men who brutally assaulted and raided the houses. Two young men—21-year-old Anas and 20-year-old Suleman—were also shot dead. In an earlier article for The Caravan, I reported in detail on their accounts and the devastation wreaked by the police.
I met Sanjeev Tyagi, the superintendent of police of Bijnor, at his official residence in the district on 23 December. Tyagi denied that the police used excessive force. He said the police entered only the houses of “rioters” while chasing them from the road. He also admitted the police were accompanied by a militia that included civilians. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence, Tyagi denied any suggestion of police brutality. Instead, he characterised every person who had faced any police action as an updrabi—an agitator—justifying the treatment they faced. He acknowledged that the police had killed Suleman, but claimed it was in “self-defence.” Anas was killed with a heavy weapon, which is usually not used for policing purposes. Tyagi said he was not killed by the police but by “rioters.”
After 20 December, an audio leaked in the public domain in which Tyagi can be heard asking his forces to deal strictly with the protestors and “break their bones.” He can be heard saying that these orders had come directly from the chief minister’s Adityanath’s office. Tyagi denied the existence of such an audio. When I told him that Nehtaur’s Muslims were too afraid to approach the police, he rubbished their fears and challenged me to bring them to him. Tyagi’s continued refusal to admit to any wrongdoing, even in the face of overwhelming evidence in the public domain, exhibits yet another facet of the police’s callous attitude—a complete denial of the citizens’ trauma and anguish.
A condensed and translated version of the interview with Tyagi is below. The full audio of our conversation has been reproduced at the end.