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CAA Protests: Violence in Lucknow Exposes Intel and Police Failure

A Newsclick team’s eyewitness account of how things unfolded in Lucknow during Thursday’s protest that left one person dead.
CAA Protests: Violence in Lucknow Exposes Intel and Police Failure

Image Courtesy: The Indian Express

Lucknow: Things were peaceful and in place in Lucknow up till 11 a.m on Thursday but soon reports started pouring in from Khadra area, which is about 4 kilometers from Parivartan Chowk, where the mass protest was scheduled to be held.

The Uttar Pradesh DGP, O P Singh, with other senior police officials of Lucknow zone, said they were visiting and inspecting different places along with the forces. Senior police officials, including S K Bhagat and S N Sabat, were giving media bytes and claiming that they would not allow anyone to take law and order in their hands, but little did they know that the protestors were ready to violate the imposition of Section 144. 

 At around 12:10 pm, the Newsclick team reached the Khadra area, which has a large chunk of Shia Muslim population. After reaching the spot, we heard loud sounds of smoke guns. Soon after reaching the area, we found that the police deployed in the area was outnumbered by the protestors, and some of the police personnel were seen running for their lives. 

 “Ham kam pad gaye, aur police, RAF bhejiye. Yaha log pagal ho gaye hai, patthar aur petrol bomb feke ja rahe hai ham par. Ek police jeep ko poora tod chuke hai ye log,” (we are fewer in number, send RAF, people have gone mad, they are pelting stones and petrol bombs at us. One police jeep has been smashed) was the message sent through wireless communication system.  

Soon one company of RAF was deployed in the area and they started marching, but by that time the situation had already gone out of control, with and several vehicles, including many cars and the police picket, allegedly torched by the protestors. The forces fired smoke shells, teargas shells to disperse the crowd which went out of control.  Over a dozen policemen were reportedly injured in the stone pelting.

Intelligence Failure?

Contrary to the claims of the police that things would be peaceful during the protest at Parivartan Chowk and no would be allowed to hold a protest other than at the scheduled place and time, within minutes thousands of protestors from different areas of the city flocked to the protest site.

The protestors, which included a large number of females, started raising slogans against the government but soon a few miscreants from within the crowd started pelting stones aimed at the police force.

Some miscreants also started torching OB vans of TV channels, motorcycles of mediapersons and even public property, which included a state-run bus and that too in the heart of the city, approximately two kilometers away from the Chief Minister’s office and residence.

In the morning, when the Newsclick team talked to some high-rank Lucknow zone police officials, they claimed that not more than 300 people would come for protest, as per local intelligence inputs. Instead, thousands joined the protest.

Till 3 p.m, the entire Parivartan Chowk area had been cleared off the protestors and what was left on the streets were burning vehicles, media persons and massive police deployment. 

A senior IPS officer currently holding no official post told Newsclick on the condition of anonymity that this had happened because the responsible police officers were over-confident and not aware what actually was happening on the ground.

“This mobilisation for the protest was not done overnight. The mobilisation drive must have been done since more than a week, and when police had to suspend the internet, it should have been done a week or at least three-four days prior to the protest. The suspension of internet could have prevented the mobilisation of protestors,” he said, questioning the action taken by the Uttar Pradesh police. 

The senior police official even questioned the role of the nodal police officials who were recently posted across the state to maintain law and order. 

Death of a Person

Mohammad Wakeel, 33, died due to an ‘alleged firearm’ injury, according to Dr Sandeep Tiwari, spokesperson of the King George Medical University in Lucknow. He told Newsclick that four persons were brought to the hospital and three of them had an ‘alleged firearm injury’.

Wakeel’s cousin Shareef told Newsclick that Wakeel was not participating in the protest and had gone out bring his auto-rickshaw home as he feared that it may get damaged. 

“My brothers saw a policeman shooting Wakeel and he sustained a bullet injury in his stomach. He was rushed to the trauma centre but succumbed. We will not bury him till we get justice. He is survived by a seven month pregnant wife. Who will care of her now,” he said. 

SSP Lucknow Kalanidhi Naithai, when asked about this, said that police did not fire and the death would be probed.  

Over 300 Arrested

On Friday, too, Section 144 was in force in many areas and internet services suspended. 

So far, the Uttar Pradesh police has far arrested more than 300 people in connection with the violence that broke out in different districts of the state during anti-CAA and NRC protests on Thursday, including in the state capital, Lucknow. 

Additional Chief Secretary Awanish Awasthi and DGP OP Singh on Friday conducted a route march in Old Lucknow area inspecting the current situation.

The government has also ordered the suspension of internet and SMS services for the next 45 hours in Lucknow, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Agra, Bareilly, Sambhal, Aligarh, Ghaziabad, Prayagraj, Mau, Kanpur, Azamgarh and Varanasi, to prevent rumour-mongering in the backdrop of protest against Citizens Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). 

Security has beefed up outside 10 prominent mosques of old Lucknow, including Rapid Action Force and Provicial Armed Constabular.

The police have also registered 13 FIRs for social media posts alleging that these could have spurred violence and five people have been arrested for social media posts. Action has also been taken against 1,786 Twitter, 3,037 Facebook and 38 YouTube posts, said a press statement released by the police.

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