By Joint Action Committee for Social Justice 

Photo: Bilal Veliancode

The Joint Action Committee for Social Justice denounces the heinous, brutal, and communally violent treatment of the 24 students, 2 faculty and 1 media person who were arrested on 22.3.2016, as well as the cruel beating of a student cooking on the campus premises of University of Hyderabad (UoH) on 23.3.2016.

All of these actions constitute criminal action by the police, and they have violated several legal procedures in the course of the arrest:

1. No official information on the whereabouts of the arrested people was provided by the police to the family or friends. Family members who called police stations were either refused information, or given misleading information that, when conveyed to friends of the arrested people for verification, proved to be false or contradictory to information given to the families of other people. For example, police at Miyapur P.S. lied about not having any arrestees on the premises; in fact upon searching it was found that 18 people were held there (16 students, 1 faculty, and 1 media person). The other group of 9 people (8 students and 1 faculty) were not traceable at all; until today evening, viz. 48 hours after the arrest, the family members feared that their children had been abducted and tortured.

2. Such concern was in fact warranted because the arrested students and faculty were in fact beaten brutally, not only in the police van right after being detained, but also in the police stations and during subsequent transportation in police vehicles. In the police van, students were punched, with fists and with elbows. Policemen stood on the seats and jumped upon the students from a height. They hit students on the head while immobilizing them and slammed their fingers against edges of the seats. Faculty who tried to intervene were punched and slapped, while being abused as teachers training students to be as “anti national”. One student, Prasanna, was playing cricket, when he saw a group of students running from the police. He started taking photos and was dragged into the police van. Several students’ phones were stolen by police when they were filming the police brutality. Muslim students were especially targeted for brutality by the police; many of them were asked for their names before being picked up from the Humanities department and shoved into the vans. They were abused constantly in the van while being especially brutally beaten and were called Anti-nationals, Pakistanis, drug peddlers, naxalites etc. They were being forced to agree to these accusations and forced to sign documents, in which they always signed and wrote underneath “by force”.

3. The students and faculty were mentally terrorized during the entire first 30 hours of their detention and made to feel like it was an abduction. The group of 9 people were constantly on the move from police station to police station. They were taken from Gachibowli, to Kukatpally, to Narsingi, where they were held overnight. In the morning, before we could reach Narsingi they were whisked off to Moinabad and then were driven through some forested area for a long time with long halts to scare them about their final destination. Late in the evening they were finally produced in a Magistrate’s house in Nacharam, where they met the Miyapur group for the first time. They were not provided any dinner, only snacks.

4. The arrested students, faculty and media persons weren’t informed of why they were picked up, where they were being taken, charges levelled against them. Their phones were immediately confiscated upon reaching the Gachibowli station, and they were not allowed to make a single phone call, in spite of appealing that Prashant’s father was ill. After this in Gachibowli P.S the police started thrashing the students. When the students opposed them by saying that they need to give them a fair hearing, the police said that all your human rights have collapsed. You are charged under sedition. They were denied the right to call a lawyer and the right to legal counsel.

5. The arrested people were, contrary to media reports that parroted information from the police instead of verifying it, not in fact produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of their detention. The detentions started around 4:50 p.m. on 22.3.2016, but the group was remanded only late in the evening of 23.3.2016 and reached Cherlapally jail only around 12:45 am of 24.3.2016. They were also beaten in the van on the way to Cherlapally jail.

Upon reaching the jail and being subjected to inhumane conditions of physical abuse, and then being housed with murderers, traffickers and arms dealers, they refused food. Police threatened them, saying “we have videos of you eating yesterday in police custody, if you don’t eat now, we’ll broadcast videos outside of you eating and claim that you are lying about eating. In other words, the morale of the arrested students, faculty and media persons has been broken.

Bail applications were made for the arrested students, faculty and media persons on 24.3.2016, and the Hon’ble Court postponed the matter to Monday 28 March, to enable the police to file a counter application.

Meanwhile lawyers and members of human rights organizations approached the University and were denied entry to campus. When they contact the students about the same from the gate, the students were told by the campus security that they would have to go the VC Appa Rao Podile if they wanted lawyers to enter the campus so students could access their legal right to counsel, but they refused to give this in writing.

We request all the supporters of the struggle for Justice for Rohith to raise their voice about the cruel and inhumane torture of students, faculty and media people.