Govt excesses in UP undermine Constitution: Dir, Actors

In a joint statement, directors Aparna Sen, Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane among others said they "do not endorse or support" any form of violence or vandalism.

"Deeply disturbed" about the situation in Uttar Pradesh (UP) over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests, a group of filmmakers and actors on Thursday found fault with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's remark about taking "revenge" against protesters, saying the spirit of Constitution has been undermined in the state "largely because of the excesses" of the government.

In a joint statement, directors Aparna Sen, Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane among others said they "do not endorse or support" any form of violence or vandalism but they do support the right of the citizen to engage in peaceful protest, terming it a "sacred right, integral to democracy", which they felt has been "curbed" in UP.

"The Chief Minister has been talking about taking 'revenge' against those who break the law. While no one disputes the state’s responsibility to maintain order, it is evident that such inflammatory advice — using rhetoric that goes beyond the law — has been seen as a political directive to the police to unleash excessive force on citizens and deliberately damage citizen property in a selective manner," they said.

"Senior police personnel, too, have followed suit and have been heard ordering their units to 'shoot the protesters' and extremely provocative and abusive language has been used against citizens, particularly the minority community. This is deplorable and unbecoming of a law enforcement agency. It erodes the trust citizens have in the state, with potentially long term costs to the entire framework of rule of law," they said.

The statement was also signed by director Alankrita Shrivastava and actors Konkona Sen, Kubbra Sait, Mallika Dua, Zeeshan Ayyub and Swara Bhasker.

Noting that the CAA has sparked contrasting views, they said irrespective of one’s views on the merits of the law, there is something more fundamental in line with India’s constitutional values, which is the right of citizens to protest peacefully, the duty of the state to respond proportionately within the framework of law and the ultimate role of courts in determining guilt and punishment.

"We believe that all these principles have been undermined in UP, largely because of the excesses of the government. The fundamental rights to life and liberty, free speech, free movement, and association are also under great jeopardy in the state," they said.

They said there is a prescribed standard operating procedure while dealing with protests  but there was "reason to believe that the procedure was not followed" as also evidence to suggest that "killings can be traced back to actions" of security personnel. 

"There have also been media reports about mass detentions of protesters, particularly in western UP. Video clips of the excessive use of force by the UP police have found their way. We find this deeply disturbing and shocking. Attacking unarmed citizens, or detaining them without due process, for exercising their democratic right to peaceful protest and in some cases, when they have not even participated in protests -- cannot be condoned by any metric," they added.

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