After being detained in his house multiple times and stopped from taking part in the most peaceful protests, social activist Sandeep Pandey said he could finally breathe in freedom when he came to Kerala. The activist from Uttar Pradesh was taking part in the 'We, The People' movement in Thiruvananthapuram, organised by a collective of people for safeguarding the values of the Indian Constitution.
“I can tell you such kind of a programme cannot be organised in UP today. We, as you know, have faced the most severe repression from the UP government during the anti-CAA and anti-NRC protests, at the time nationwide protests were being held on December 19,” Sandeep Pandey said.
He spoke about the protests in Lucknow where ‘masked men made to dress up as Muslims’ began arson and looting, and innocent protestors and activists were arrested. “One of the people who were taken to jail that day was Congress spokesperson Sadaf Jafar. She had asked the police why they were not doing anything to prevent the arson and looting but arresting the peaceful protestors instead,” Sandeep said.
He recounted the horrific incident of police firing on Muslims after they came out of masjids on December 20, a Friday, following their prayers. “The police first lathicharged them and when they reacted by throwing stones, they fired at the Muslims. There were 20 deaths that day, all of Muslim youths.”
There wasn’t even a protest when there was a rampage in Muzaffarnagar, Sandeep said, “and BJP MP Sanjeev Kumar Balyan was seen directing the rioters. They vandalised the property of Muslims, entered houses and destroyed everything, not even sparing the bathrooms. All this madness went on for 2-3 days and it happened because our CM Yogi Adityanath said that he would take revenge on people demonstrating and indulging in violence. The FIRs however had Muslim names. I saw three FIRs myself. It was nearly all Muslim names and they have been issued notice for recovery of damage to property. Innocent protestors first had FIRs against them, and then also had to pay for damage.”
Sandeep said the UP government did all of it with the intention of polarisation, but that people were still united in the protests. He says, "It was severe curb on democratic rights. Congress spokesperson Sadaf Jafar was arrested and beaten up by the police. All communal things got said. Deepak Kabir, a cultural activist who went to the police station to meet Sadaf Jafar, was also arrested. Dalit activist Pawan Rao Ambedkar was subjected to torture in police station. I was put under detention three times. My senior colleagues in their 70s were sent to jail, all for protesting on the issue of Kashmir or something else, the CAA and NRC."
Among his two colleagues who were arrested, Adv Mohammed Shoaib is still in jail. "If you hold any viewpoint other than that of the BJP or RSS on Kashmir or CAA-NRC or Ayodhya, you'll not be allowed to go out of your house, hold meetings or press conferences. And the more serious damage is communalising the society. But we will fight till they take it (CAA and NRC) back or the government itself goes."