In more evidence of their continuing brutality towards protesters, officials from the Uttar Pradesh were caught on camera beating those protesting the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). The violence at the iconic Ghanta Ghar of Hussainabad, Lucknow on March 19, 2020, left five women protesters injured. They were later admitted to hospital. Three of the injured are in critical condition after they fainted, an eye witness confirmed.
According to the protesters, thousands had gathered in protest against the CAA, NRC, and NPR.
At around 1.30 am, a large deployment of policemen along with the Rapid Action Force (RAF) landed up at the protest site and pulled down banners and posters. The security forces allegedly manhandled women protesters and tried to remove them from the protest site. An eyewitness, Azra, told NewsClick that “a large number of police came to the protest site in the wee hours. Their faces were covered with masks and they even did not wear name badges. They mercilessly hit women in their stomach and slapped them. They did not even spare an 80-year-old woman and punched her in her stomach. Three women fainted on the spot,” she added.
Protesters alleged that the police even disrespected the Quran and also pulled off the bed sheets and tarpaulin on which the women were sitting. This led to scuffles and tensions arose.
An organiser and an eyewitness, Kahkasha, told NewsClick, “This is the third time that the police made a most brutal attempt to break the protesters and mute our voices but they forget that the more they suppress our voice, the louder it will emerge."
She said that two women protesters were admitted in Balrampur Hospital while one was in the medical college. “The protest started on January 17 and we will not give up until the government rolls back this black law. As for coronavirus, we are taking all necessary precautions including masks and sanitisers."
When questioned about the protest’s timing given the pandemic, Lubna, a woman protester who runs a makeshift library said that they had survived “for two months even in bone-chilling cold. Still, our spirits are still not flagging. We will not vacate the site until our demands are met,” she added.
Fatima Khan, who was also present at the protest, said that they have been protesting over the past two months to save the constitution and the BJP government cannot remove them using any excuse or pressure. “If the government had good intentions, it should have sent a delegation to talk to the protesting women,” she added, mentioning that the police had shown “fear” by resorting to lathis.
On Thursday, the police first tried to convince the protesters about the novel coronavirus scare and vacate the protest site but the women did not budge. "Police has beaten us in the name of coronavirus. Their intention was never to spread health awareness but to remove the protest site in the name of coronavirus," she added.
The women protesters alleged that after every crackdown, police arrest innocent Muslims and send them to jail.
The police registered First Information Report (FIRs) against 22 named and 150 unnamed people who have been part of the protest. They have been booked under several sections of Indian Penal Code (IPC) for allegedly "rioting and damaging" the Ghanta Ghar monument.
As per FIRs, the protesters at Ghanta Ghar damaged the historical monument and turned it into an illegal protest spot against the CAA, NPR and NRC. The FIR also read: "Several men, who were encouraged by the acts of these women, also raised inciting slogans against police and the government. It affected the environment around the Ghanta Ghar area."
However, the women protesters accused the police of spreading lies. "It has been two months and there was no controversy or any slogans raised against the nation. Police is lying and showing their muscle power to break the protesters," they said.
Meanwhile, reports coming from Roshan Bagh of Prayagraj, formerly known as Allahabad, mention that protesting women alleged that the district administration is threatening them to call off the protest. The women were inspired by the resilient women of New Delhi's Shaheen Bagh and had begun a sit-in protest at Mansoor Ali Park on January 12.