Days after 16 people were killed in Uttar Pradesh where protests over the citizenship law led to a police crackdown and a warning from Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath that “revenge will be taken”, the Rampur district administration became the first in the state to initiate the process for recovery of damage to government property including police motorcycles, barrier, dandas.
In identical notices issued Tuesday to 28 people, including an embroidery worker and a hawker of spices who are already in custody, the administration, while holding them responsible for acts of violence and damage to government property, has sought explanation on why recoveries should not be made for damage worth Rs 14.86 lakh.
Embroidery worker Zameer’s mother Munni Begum told The Indian Express that she does not even have money to hire a lawyer for her son in custody. “I have not received any recovery notice from the district administration so far. We don’t even have money to arrange a lawyer for Zameer. How can we pay any compensation?”.
She said police came to their house in Nai Basti Sunday afternoon and took Zameer with them. “They did not say why they were taking away Zameer. The next day, we came to know police had booked Zameer for the Saturday violence and sent him to jail. My son, who has studied only till Class IV, is innocent. On the day of the violence, he was at home,” she said.
Zameer’s neighbour Mehmood, who sold spices on a cart for a living, was also arrested by police on Sunday in connection with the same incident. Mehmood’s brother-in-law Faheem, a daily-wage labour hand, said Mehmood too was home on Saturday. “There was no need for him to participate in the violence… He lives in a rented accommodation and earns a meagre amount. How can he pay such a huge compensation sum?”.
Near Bilaspur Gate in Rampur, Seema, wife of labour hand Pappu, said her husband had been wrongly arrested in a case of arson. She too said her husband was home on Saturday, and that the police came the next day. “No one was ready to listen,” she said.
Zameer, Mehmood and Pappu have since been sent to Rampur jail. Police said Zameer and Mehmood were arrested for their alleged involvement in Saturday’s violence at Hathi Khan crossing that left one person dead and five injured.
Rampur District Magistrate Aunjaneya Kumar Singh said: “We issued notices to 28 persons whose role were found by police during investigation. Police submitted evidences against them. They (28) have been asked to submit their response within a week, otherwise the process of recovery against them will be started. Of the 28, a few have been arrested while raids are on to trace others. An accused and his family can submit evidence to support their plea that they have been wrongly booked in the case.”
The district administration said the notices were issued in line with a state government order based on an earlier ruling of the Allahabad High Court. The notices were issued on the basis of information provided by local police. Police have video clips and photographs, including from media houses and local residents. Police have also collected footage of CCTVs near the incident site.
In the notice, loss of property worth Rs 14,86,500 has been cited. It lists, among others, a police jeep of Bhot police station (Rs 750,000), motorcycle of a sub-inspector (Rs 65,000), motorcycle of City Kotwali police station (Rs 90,000), wireless set, hooter/loudspeaker, 10 dandas, three helmets, three body protectors.