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When Dissenters are Portrayed as Criminals

When Dissenters are Portrayed as Criminals

Why many youngsters are living like fugitives in Uttar Pradesh state

The COVID-19 pandemic put on hold protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act of 2019 that had been going on across the country until a lockdown was announced. However, many protesters are still paying the price for opposing the law, which many see as discriminatory towards Muslims.

In Mau, a town in Uttar Pradesh state which has a majority-Muslim population, was one of the areas where thousands of residents protested against the law and expressed solidarity with protesting students of Delhi’s Jamia Milia Islamia university who were met with a violent crackdown by police.

Protesters were apparently punished also in Mau, about 900 kilometres from Jamia Milia Islamia.

On Dec. 16, 2019, after a violent group of people reportedly joined the protest in Mau and threw stones at buses and vandalised a police station, police claimed it had identified about 110 people and charged them under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act. 

Police then put up posters carrying pictures of all the suspects at prominent places across the town. The posters offered a reward of 25,000 rupees to anyone who would give any information about the suspects.

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However, at least some of the accused were local activists or ordinary protesters who allegedly held peaceful protests. I met one such protester, whose testimony gave me a glimpse into the lives of the young suspects who were having to live like fugitives until press time.

Please watch the video above.

StoriesAsia, a collective of independent journalists from 16 South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, seeks to replace the present-day parade of faceless numbers with humanising narrative nonfiction – a largely ignored journalistic genre in the region.

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