Minors, mostly school students, are among the thousands arrested, detained, put on notice, or injured, in different cities in Uttar Pradesh, following protests against the new citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC).
In Sambhal, among the 42 arrested, families of at least two claimed that they were boys aged 16 and 17, respectively — both were arrested late last Thursday. In one case, The Indian Express accessed Aadhaar details that show the detainee’s year of birth as 2003.
While police claimed that no minor had been detained, the two families have alleged that their boys have been lodged in Bareilly jail for a week. Protests in Sambhal had turned violent last Thursday, leaving two dead.
Less than 200 km away, in Muzaffarnagar, The Indian Express met at least three injured minors. One of them, a 16-year-old, claimed he was “shot by a policeman” above his knee on December 20. A salesman in a local garment shop near Sarwat Gate, he said he was advised by his owner to return home when he was caught in the violence. “I saw a policeman shoot at me,” he said.
Two other boys in Muzaffarnagar — a 12-year-old studying in Class V and a 14-year old studying in a madrasa — said they were beaten by police, and claimed they had nothing to do with the protests.
The Class V student said a policeman swung his lathi at him from a moving car. The 14-year old said he was picked up along with his friend while returning from a madrasa, and “beaten by five-six policemen in the station”.
In the two Sambhal cases, the families claimed that they have not been provided a copy of the FIR. They also alleged that the two boys were taken to four different locations in the last one week. In both the cases, fearing that other men from the family would be falsely implicated, the women have been fighting the police to release the two.
The 16-year-old studies in Class VIII. After returning from tuitions last Thursday, he had left home at around 7.30 pm to buy milk from a nearby shop, but went missing since then. “We searched for him for three hours but could not trace him,” said the minor’s father, who works as a mason in Sambhal. The minor is the youngest of six and the only one enrolled in a nearby school.
“Five days later, his name appeared in a newspaper report, which said he has been sent to Bareilly jail,” the minor’s brother said.
The family also claimed that he was taken to four different locations. “From the police station, he was taken to a location near Chandausi. He said he did not identify the place. After that, he was brought back to Chandausi. From there, he was taken to Moradabad and placed under custody in Bareilly,” the brother said.
When contacted, Sambhal SP Yamuna Prasad said: “We have arrested 42 persons related to the protests. But no juvenile has been arrested. We will check and, if they are found to be so, we will produce them before the Juvenile Justice Board.”
The other detained minor’s family in Sambhal fears that “men from the house will be wrongfully arrested” if they sought bail for him. The only family member fighting for the minor’s release is his 70-year old maternal grandmother, who stays with the siblings. “We are poor and cannot raise our voice. Only God can give us justice,” she said.
The minor’s eldest brother, who works in a jeans factory, said his brother’s school records and Aadhaar card proves he is a minor.
In Muzaffarnagar, the 16-year-old who said he was hit a bullet “managed to limp to a house nearby” from where he was brought to his house on a cart. His father and uncles took him to a government hospital, he said. The police recorded his statement at the hospital, and asked the family to admit him in a private hospital.
The boy had to be operated upon since the bone on his left leg had been shattered, the family said, adding that he has been advised bed rest for three months. The hospital report stated he was admitted on December 21.
The injured 14-year old from Muzaffarnagar said he was returning from the madrasa along with a classmate when policemen stopped them. “When they learnt we were returning from a madrasa, they bashed us. My classmate was badly beaten,” he said. The police, he alleged, took them to the station and “beat us again in the night”.