NEW DELHI: Idul Hasan has been crying since he saw the body of his 20-year-old son Asif, unable to believe that life has become so tragic.
“I was called by the ambulance driver, he told me to see my son in the hospital’s post-mortem section,” a sobbing Hasan told Arab News. “What was his crime?”
Asif, a rickshaw driver in the Meerut district of northern Uttar Pradesh state, was killed after Friday prayers when police fired at people protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The act fast-tracks citizenship for persecuted Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Christians who arrived in India before the end of 2014 from Muslim-majority Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. But critics say the law is discriminatory and goes against the secular spirit of India’s constitution.
Six people have been killed by police fire in Meerut and a fact-finding team comprising civil society activists accuses authorities of targeting Muslims. One activist has said there is a “reign of terror” in Uttar Pradesh.
“The UP authorities are brazenly targeting Muslims ... throwing democratic norms, constitutional rights and the due process of law to the wind,” the National Action Against Citizenship Amendment team said.
The citizenship law follows decisions by New Delhi that disproportionately affect the country’s Muslim population including revoking the special status of the Muslim-majority state of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, the screening of Muslims from the National Register of Citizens in Assam state, and plans to build a Hindu temple at the site of centuries-old Babri Mosque.
There have been protests across India but most of the killings and violence has occurred in places governed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) such as Uttar Pradesh.
Media and police reports said there had been 18 deaths from police fire in the state, and that hundreds of people have been detained.
“There is a reign of terror and the minority is living in deep fear,” political activist Yogendra Yadav told Arab News after a visit to Meerut.
Arab News contacted the director-general of Uttar Pradesh police, O.P. Singh, but he refused to comment.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised the role of state police in enforcing law and order, telling an audience in Lucknow that people who committed violent acts and damaged public property should sit peacefully at home and ponder if it was the right path.
Activists who visited the state told Arab News that the BJP was openly at war with Muslims, and that people were so scared they were not going to the police station to file reports about missing relatives.