New Delhi: Amid nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), the highest number of killings of protesters has been reported in Uttar Pradesh at 16, with 14 of these dying of bullet injuries. This is despite the UP Police claiming that it did not fire at the protesters.
Indian Express has reported, citing a senior police source, that out of 16, as many as 14 protesters killed in the past four days, died of “firearm” injuries. More reports have appeared, raising questions about the police’s claim of not firing on CAA/NRC protesters. Some videos posted on social media (whose veracity has not been independently confirmed by Newsclick) also show the police shooting at protesters. This is over and above various testimonies to the media by people who said they witnessed police firings.
Those who died from alleged bullet injuries have been identified as Mohammed Wakeel (32) in Lucknow; Aftab Alam (22) and Mohammad Saif (25) in Kanpur; Anas (21) and Suleman (35) in Bijnor; Bilal (24) and Mohammad Shehroz (23) in Sambhal; Jaheer (33), Mohsin (28), Asif (20) and Areef (20) in Meerut; Nabi Jahan (24) in Firozabad; and, Faiz Khan (24) in Rampur. A senior police officer has confirmed this news to IE.
Meanwhile, in a video doing the rounds on social media, a cop is purportedly seen firing from a handgun in Kanpur ,which was among the cities where fresh violence erupted on Saturday.
The 90-second video shows a Khaki-clad policeman with chest guard and helmet loading his pistol during a protest against the amended law. The video appeared to be from Yateemkhana area in Kanpur, said PTI.
In addition, people who were peacefully protesting have also been randomly arrested by the UP Police. For instance, Sadaf Jafar, a Lucknow-based social activist associated with the Congress, was detained by police and has alleged that she was beaten up.
"My sister Sadaf has been arrested yesterday from Parivartan Chowk. Totally uncalled for and cowardly action of the police! They have slapped charges like sabotage and attempt to murder on her while she was reporting live on how police were complicit in sabotage at the dharna," her sister Nahid Verma has alleged.
Among the three other deaths reported in UP was an eight-year-old boy Mohammad Sagir in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency. Sagir of Bajardiha area, succumbed to his injuries reportedly caused due to the stampede during clashes in the city on Friday and 35-year-old Rashid who succumbed to head injuries.
“In most cases, autopsy reports suggest that the victims died in firing by protesters,” Inspector-General (Law and Order) Praveen Kumar said, adding that detailed reports have been sought from the districts.
Meanwhile, UP police claimed that the bodies of the deceased were handed over to their respective families after post-mortem examination. However, the deceased’s families told IE that they were yet to receive the autopsy reports.
It may be noted that across the country, 24 people have been killed since the anti-Citizenship Act protests erupted. The highest number of deaths have been reported from Uttar Pradesh.
Violence has erupted across UP, with incidents of police firing, lathi-charge, stone-pelting and vandalism. The police arrested 879 people while 5,000 were 'bound down' as a preventive measure,
On Monday, UP police also said they had arrested the state head of Islamic outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) and his two aides for allegedly masterminding violence in the state capital during the protests last week.
"We have got success in arresting mastermind of Lucknow violence. Wasim, Nadeem and Ashfaq of PFI have been arrested by the police. While Wasim is state head, Ashfaq is treasurer and Nadeem is a member of PFI," SSP, Lucknow, Kalanidhi Naithani told reporters here, according to PTI.
Sense of Humiliation, Fear Among Muslims
Ever since violence has erupted across Uttar Pradesh, a sense of humiliation and fear has gripped Muslims, especially in Western UP’s Muzaffarnagar, where police reportedly raided several houses, beat up family members including women, pelted stones, vandalised their home and threatened to ablaze house.
"Goons in police dress roaming freely and ransacked the house of Muslims and threating people to ablaze houses. A total of 208 people have been arrested from Muzaffarnagar alone. The police are demanding lakhs to release them. Two people freed of my neighbour after paying Rs 50,000 each", Tanveer Tyagi, a social activist in Muzaffarnagar, told Newsclick.
A Muzaffarnagar resident said: "There is a hamlet Khalapar in Muzaffarnagar which is a Muslim majority area. Police barged into homes, took away valuable stuff and broke everything. The cops did not even leave makeup kits of women. We have video footage recorded by a resident that shows the policemen firing from rifles, as one of them shouts an abuse and says: kill one or two of them'. This is how police threatening us and Muslims are literally living in fear.”
The resident further alleged that over 67 small shops belonging to Muslims had been sealed in the crackdown by the UP Police despite the fact that these people did not participate in the CAA/NRC protests.
‘We Will Take Revenge’
Political observers in the state blame the Bharatiya Janata Party and statements by some its leaders for emboldening the police. For instance, UP chief minister Adityanath said four days ago, before the police started its action, that “There was violence in Lucknow and Sambhal and we will deal with it strictly. All property of those involved in damaging public assets will be seized and auctioned to compensate for the losses.”
The CM added that those damaging property have been captured in CCTV and video footage. “We will take revenge from them by seizing their property,” he said.
The administration has set up a four-member panel to assess the damage to public properties to recover the losses. These people are being identified through video footage and their pictures will be put on all major road intersections, he added
Tension in Meerut
With reports of police crackdown on Muslims in the state, many are considering fleeing. Ubaidullah, a social activist based in Meerut which is worst-hit by the anti-CAA protests, told NewsClick, "In Meerut district, people are being arrested since Saturday, a day after Friday's protest. These people are being arrested under "unknown" FIRs. Over 44 people, mostly youth ,have been arrested from Tarapuri, People of Umar Nagar, Rasheed Nagar, Tarapuri which is Muslim majority area, migrating to a safer place. These areas are close to Hapur road where the major incident took place,” alleging that the Meerut police was targeting only Muslims, even if they were not part of the protests.
"As I have collected information through local media and my sources, six people have died during protest but police is claiming only four, because post-mortem of two people has been not done," Ubaidullah claimed.