New Delhi/Bengaluru: Days after Anas Hussain was killed in his hometown of Nehtaur in northern India during an anti-government protest last month, an online crowdfunding campaign raised 1 million rupees (nearly $14,000) to help his family.
Many lawyers are offering their services free of charge - pro bono - to have detained protesters released and help the families of victims.
Shanu Khan, a 15-year-old in Uttar Pradesh’s Sambhal town, was detained by police while he was returning home from tuition on Dec. 19, his father Afzal Khan said.
“For four days we didn’t know his whereabouts,” said Khan, who has since learned that his son is lodged in jail in another city accused of involvement in violence that had broken out in the area that day.
Khan’s family, and those of four other young men, have since received a notice demanding 245,000 rupees ($3,430) for alleged damage to public property.
“Where will we get the money? We’re barely scraping by,” said Afzal Khan, a day labourer.
M.A. Farooqui, who along with other lawyers in the area has been working pro bono to help some of the detainees, including Shanu Khan, calls the property seizure notices “illegal.”
“There’s no provision in the law that allows the government to claim damages from people whose crimes have not been proven,” said Farooqui.
Anas Tanvir, a Supreme Court lawyer who has been working with other lawyers and law students to provide legal aid to victims and detainees, said he had never before seen “such a need for immediate legal intervention”.
“Organisations like ours only succeed if the state fails,” he said.
Elsewhere, students have coalesced to form networks of support groups and lists of useful contacts to help protesters with everything from trauma to mental distress.
“All students in cities that have been actively dissenting have a list of lawyers, doctors, counsellors and media that they are keeping handy,” said Teresa Braggs, a communication studies student in Bengaluru. “These small things are helpful.”...