TWO PERSONS were killed and at least 40 people injured across the state, as the Bharat bandh called by Dalit groups over the alleged dilution of the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act turned violent. A third person died in Firozabad, though police claimed that he had passed away before the protests. Amreesh (19) from Muzaffarnagar and Ankur (in his 20s) from Meerut — both Dalits — died of bullet injuries. Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Agra and Hapur were the worst affected districts and 448 people have been arrested, said police.
A former BSP MLA from Hastinapur, Yogesh Verma, was arrested in Meerut in connection with the violence, said SSP Manzil Saini. “He is the main conspirator… his conspiracy led to this flare-up,” she added. Verma is husband of Meerut Mayor Sunita Verma. “Roughly, more than 200 people have been detained… we are getting cases registered against them. They will be booked under NSA (National Security Act),” Saini told media.
On Amreesh, Muzaffarnagar Chief Medical Officer (CMO) P S Mishra said an autopsy will be conducted to establish cause of death. Ten others, including three police personnel, were injured, said the CMO.
Amreesh hailed from Gadla village in Bhopa area of Muzaffarnagar. “We received a call around 2.30 pm that Amreesh was injured in police firing. He was a labourer and was headed to the city to look for work. We heard that he was hit by a bullet on his chest and died soon afterwards,” Gadla pradhan Ashok Kumar said.
In Muzaffarnagar, Nayi Mandi police station SHO Kushal Pal Singh said, “There was no firing as such… However, we had to use mild force to disperse the protesters… There was a violent protest in the police station. Later, the protesters left and damaged vehicles parked outside, and set some of them on fire.”
“Amreesh died from bullet injuries… Investigation is on to establish the circumstances leading to his death,” said ADG (Meerut Zone) Prashant Kumar.
On Ankur’s death in Meerut, he said: “He was one of the protesters… a bullet fired by him had ricocheted and hit him in the stomach.”
Ankur’s elder brother Rinku, however, said: “I have come to know that he was shot in the stomach. Which law calls for immediately firing upon protesters? They could have called a fire brigade (to fire water cannons).”
Rinku said his wife was unwell, else he would also have joined his brother in the protest. He also alleged that doctors at a private hospital in Meerut weren’t ready to treat Ankur, who made a living sewing track suits. Meerut CMO Raj Kumar said Ankur was referred to AIIMS in New Delhi.
However, citing a video, police claimed that Ankur was not killed in police firing. The video purportedly shows a youth, face covered with a white handkerchief, holding a stick, as he falls down wearing a bloodied T-shirt and jeans. The CMO said two other protesters were critical in Meerut, and the injured included three policemen.
Meanwhile, 55 government buses were damaged and two gutted in Meerut region. Protesters also set ablaze Shobhapur police outpost.
In Firozabad, locals alleged that Suresh Chandra (56), a Jatav, died after he was injured in police lathicharge. However, Naarki police SHO Suresh Chandra said: “Chandra passed away on Sunday night. In the morning, the locals protested with his body. He was a tuberculosis patient and had difficulty breathing.”
“The person died either at night or in the morning due to other reasons. Some people are trying to connect it to lathicharge… but there was no lathicharge. In fact, our inspector was injured in stone pelting. So, probably to escape an FIR against them, they have cooked up a story,” said Firozabad SSP Manoj Kumar.
DIG (Law and Order) Praveen Kumar told media that police, with its “sensitivity, efforts and communications set-up”, brought the situation under control by 2 pm. “There were no incidents in 90 per cent of districts. All districts are on high alert… There were some people spreading rumours to incite people from the SC and ST communities. The situation is under control, but we are alert and establishing communication with influential people who can help stop rumours,” he said, adding while around 40 police personnel were injured, the figure might change.
Hapur SP Hemant Kutiyal said that hundreds of protesters had taken to the streets near the Tehsil chauraha and damaged public properties before setting ablaze at least two public buses. Force from six police stations have been deployed in the area, he added. Agra SSP Amit Pathak said some properties were damaged in the district.
In Allahabad, while students of Allahabad University blocked a goods train at Prayag station, BSP supporters reportedly stopped a local train at Meja. Protesters in the district swelled by afternoon and many forced a mall and nearby shops to shut. Police and RAF teams were deployed to rein in protesters.
In Varanasi, protests died down by afternoon with BSP district chief Lakshman Ram and a few others being detained at Cantonment police station. The protesters had blocked roads for an hour near the district court and police used mild force to disperse them. “We have detained around 10 protesters. They were blocking roads and hindering traffic,” said SSP R K Bhardwaj.
In Azamgarh, a public bus was torched. “We have detained 20 people in connection with the arson,” said a police officer. Two trains — a goods train and Saptkranti Express — were stopped, two police stations and six UP Roadways bus vandalised, and a police motorcycle was set ablaze in Ghaziabad as thousands of protesters gathered across the district.
In neighbouring district of Gautam Buddha Nagar, 14 protesters were arrested for pelting stones at a UP Roadways bus, police said. The protests led to massive traffic chaos in the NCR areas, as thousands of protesters blocked arterial roads and highways. The GT Road in Greater Noida area was also blocked after around 200 protesters pelted stones at another bus, police said.