On February 5, police in Uttar Pradesh arrested 19 people from Jauhar Park in the Bilariaganj area of Azamgarh, in the wee hours of the day. They were arrested for protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC). The police also lathi-charged and fired tear gas shells to disperse the demonstrators.
A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered at Bilariyaganj police station against 135 people, of which 35 have been charged with serious offences like 124-A, 147, 153-A, 504, 307, 120-B and the Criminal Law Amendment Act. The FIR is for allegedly protesting against the CAA and the NRC and the protesters have been charged with serious charges including "sedition". A reward of Rs 25,000 has been also announced to help apprehend three people who are accused of rioting.
The FIR registered against the protesters lists 17 charges, including sedition and rioting, according to documents accessed by NewsClick.
Meanwhile, the Azamgarh police has alleged that the protesters were conspiring to create communal riots in the city. All of the 19 people who were arrested, were sent to jail.
At 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning, U.P. police 'infiltrated' on the sit-in protest by women in the Bilariyaganj town of Azamgarh district who were protesting against the CAA and the NRC. The police brutally attacked protesters. The violence has left close to dozen people injured with broken bones and wounds. Several people, mostly women and children, have been severely injured including a 50-year-old woman who is critical and in the ICU of the district hospital.
Protesters allege that the police resorted to stone-pelting and then a baton charge to disperse them. Though the police denied a baton charge, they acknowledged that they fired tear-gas shells to disperse the crowd.
Rajeev Yadav, General Secretary of the Rihai Manch, who was there on the spot after the police crackdown told NewsClick that the women had been protesting since February 4. He says that Azamgarh's Superintendent of Police, Triveni Singh, threatened them and asked them to stop the protests, else “they will be dealt with accordingly. So, at 11 a.m. about 500-600 women gathered at the park and started the sit-in protest. The police reportedly told them to clear out, saying they did not have permission. At 4 a.m. after fajr namaz (morning prayer) the police stepped in on the women. In the presence of District Magistrate they responded with rubber bullets and an attack that has led to several being injured."
Pointing out the sedition charges against protesters, Yadav said: "When a right-wing chap open fired at Jamia students and Sheen Bagh, they were not booked under sedition. When police inspector Subodh Kumar Singh was killed in Bulandshahr by the people of Bajrang Dal and Hindu Yuva Vahini, then why did the police not book them under sedition?”
NO CHANTS AGAINST THE 'NATION’ OR ‘HINDUS’
Meanwhile, in a statement, the Azamgarh police has claimed that protesters chanted slogans against the nation and the government, abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and “making announcements against the Hindu religion”. “They were saying they will snatch azadi and will get azadi anyhow,” the statement added.
Reacting to allegations regarding these slogans, Azeem, an eye-witness Azeem said that if the police claims that protesters chanted slogans against the nation and Hindus, “they should produce a video and we will also show videos of how police barged into houses of Muslims who live next to the park and beat them up black and blue. They did not even spare elderly people, women and children.”
A woman, identified as Sarwari Bano, 40 and Arshalan, were seriously injured. “My mother sustained an injury to her head and was operated upon today,” Bano’s son Bilal told NewsClick over the phone. “Doctors say her brain has been damaged. We live next to the park and when there was chaos, she went out to check and got injured. I don’t know who threw the stone that hit her,” Bilal adds.
The police has also offered a reward of Rs. 25,000 for three students leaders who were protesting peacefully at Azamgarh's Shibli National College. "Three students of different student unions were also booked and the police offered a reward of Rs 25,000 for them," Rajeev told NewsClick.
Locals said there was complete terror all around after the police crackdown. People are living in fear and avoiding even going to the market.
After Shaheen Bagh, three more such protests began across Uttar Pradesh in Kanpur, Allahabad and Lucknow, in that order. Azamgarh was the fourth such effort but it was met with heavy-handed action within hours, with even women and children not spared.
On December 19 and 20, thousands of people joined a protest against CAA-NRC-NPR in several districts of Uttar Pradesh. As the protests turned violent at a few places, at least 23 people were killed—most of them with bullet injuries—in Meerut, Kanpur, Bijnor, Firozabad and other places. Most of them were daily wagers.