Twenty-two protesters were booked for culpable homicide, criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, rioting, assault and obstruction to public servants on duty and other sections of the IPC in the Chhapi police station area of Banaskantha district when they had gathered to protest against the new citizenship law Thursday.
Of the 22, four are aides of Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani who were taken into preventive detention Thursday morning, hours ahead of the planned protest against CAA. The FIR states that while the permission to assemble was granted because the ground for assembly was given as commemorating the martyrdom of freedom fighters Ashfaqulla Khan and Bismillah (Ram Prasad Bismil), subsequently “a conspiracy was hatched” to protest against CAA, and the permission was hence withdrawn.
Lodged by police sub-inspector, LP Rana, the 22 accused were booked under sections pertaining to conspiracy (120 B) along with attempt to culpable homicide (308) and endangering life (336), unlawful assembly (143, 149), rioting (147, 153), assault and obstruction to public servants (152, 353), criminal intimidation (506(2)) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The accused have also been charged under the provisions of the the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
According to the permit granted by the executive magistrate of Vadgam taluka for the gathering, which has been accessed by this paper, “It has been requested by one Anish (Satish) Vansola… that they wish to assemble to commemorate the martyrdom of (freedom fighters) Ashfaqulla Khan and Bismillah (Ram Prasad Bismil) and to register protest against CAA and be allowed to play loudspeakers for the same… Subject to below mentioned conditions, the assembly is permitted for 19/12/2019…”
PSI Rana claims that though permission was granted initially, it came to the notice of authorities later that a protest is planned “against the Indian government” and “blocking traffic on the highway” and owing to this information, the permit was cancelled. The FIR further states that police arrangements at the location were made on December 19 since 7 am when “Muslims started coming (at the spot) and we tried to explain but they were not ready to listen”. At 8:50, two of the protesters who had applied for the permit to assemble, along with two others, were detained and kept at the Palanpur headquarter (of police), the FIR states. The four were released at around 11 am.
In another communication, notifying the cancellation of earlier provided permission to assemble, however, a reason different from that mentioned in the FIR is cited for the cancellation for the earlier approved permit.
Also signed by the executive magistrate of Vadgam, it states, “…the permission was granted…but thereafter, a letter from the PSI Chhapi informed that the approved venue falls under the Ahmedabad-Palanpur highway… and the road is a national highway. Highways have plentiful of traffic… also since Udaipur-Himmatnagar 6 Highway is closed, there is increased traffic along this road…” It was also stated that the highway shall be used by commuters for the Umiya Mata festival at Unjha that will see visitors from across the country as well as from abroad. “…Due to heavy vehicles plying on this highway, there is a fear that accidents may occur (if the assembly is permitted). As we suspect that there will be a heavy crowd in this assembly, we are cancelling the permit granted…,” the communication adds.
According to the FIR, despite the cancelled permit, “3,000 unknown persons from Muslim community assembled” and a police vehicle suffered damages as the crowd pelted stones and a side mirror was broken. The FIR alleges that the driver was threatened that if he drove away, he will be killed. It also alleges that the police jeep was rocked violently despite police personnel sitting inside, endangering their lives, had the jeep toppled over. A state transport (ST) bus too was pelted with stones that resulted in broken glass, as per the FIR.
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