With security drones flying overhead and police and paramilitary personnel keeping tight vigil on the ground to snuff out any fresh protest against the new citizenship law, Uttar Pradesh remained peaceful Friday with people offering prayers at mosques across the state and dispersing quietly. Internet services remained suspended in 14 districts since Thursday night and were to resume late Friday.
Director General of Police O P Singh said the law and order situation was totally under control and no incident had been reported from any part of the state. Since morning, Singh and senior police officers were in regular touch with district police chiefs, and there was special focus on the districts of Lucknow, Bijnor, Sambhal, Muzaffarnagar, Firozabad, Kanpur, Mau and Varanasi where protests turned violent last week. At least 19 people were killed during the protests in the state.
Security drones kept watch on groups of people moving on roads and senior officers led police patrols. In Lucknow, roads wore deserted looks with heavy police bandobast in areas of the old city which was rocked by violence on December 19. People were not allowed to assemble at any place for long after the Friday prayers.
Police have arrested 1,246 people in connection with 372 FIRs lodged so far and placed another 5,558 people under preventive detention. This is the biggest police crackdown in the state since the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots when 1,480 people were arrested in 567 cases. The riots had claimed 63 lives and displaced an estimated 50,000 people.
On Friday, district police officers were told to hold meetings with clerics and other religious heads, and ensure meetings of peace committees.
In Kanpur, where three persons were killed in the violence last week, there was heavy police presence outside the Eidgah mosque at Begumpurwa area. People walked to the mosque in pairs or alone to offer prayers. Kanpur Additional SP (South) Aparna Gupta, who stood outside the mosque, said: “The situation is completely under control. We are keeping a watch. We have volunteers inside the mosque… we have held talks with locals. The volunteers are from the local population and are coordinating with us to ensure that no untoward incident happens in Kanpur.”
Dr M M Khan, part of the civil defence team assisting the police in maintaining law and order, said: “We have spoken to the head cleric of the mosque and he will announce during the namaz that everyone should return home after the prayers.” A police officer said a flag march was conducted in the Begumpurwa and Babupurwa areas and police distributed pamphlets saying the CAA will not affect Muslims.
Mohammad Shoaib Khan, a carpenter who walked out of the the mosque after the prayers, said: “There were no talk about the CAA inside the mosque. The only thing said was that we must return home after the prayers.”
IG (Kanpur range) Mohit Agarwal said: “There is peace in Kanpur and adjoining areas. No untoward incident has been reported anywhere. We made arrangements to ensure law and order. We are on alert and are patrolling all areas. Apart from Kanpur police, there is deployment of PAC, RAF, ITBP.”
In Mau, where an agitated crowd vandalised a police station and torched vehicles last week, there was normalcy through the day. The markets of Mirzahadi Pura Chowk and Sadar Chowk remained open as police stood guard. In the city, there were barricades on the roads leading to the two chowks but vehicle traffic was not stopped.
Mau SP Anurag Arya, who stood with DM Gyan Prakash Tripathi at the Sanskrit Pathshala police outpost after the Friday prayers, said: “The situation here in Mau is perfectly normal. All the shops here have been open for the last several days.” Tripathi said: “There is peace in the district and it was possible with the help of prominent members of society. Muftis, maulanas, imams and other religious leaders reached out to people and appealed for peace. It was the result of our joint initiative that the Friday namaz passed off peacefully.”
Mau Jamiat-e-Ulema president Maulana Khursheed told The Indian Express that ever since the violence, he and others had been reaching out to the youth to maintain peace. “You will find that even though violence in Uttar Pradesh first started in Mau, the district has since been totally peaceful. We have been continuously talking to people, senior police and administration officers. The result has been positive,” he said.
Meerut too was limping back to normalcy after the violence last week left four persons dead. Police and administration officials exchanged “aman ke phool” (flowers of peace) with Muslim leaders and ate “aman ki khichdi” (khichdi of peace) as a mark of the improved relationship in the past week.
The Friday prayers were offered under the shadow of a massive bandobast of police and paramilitary personnel. There was no call for a rally or protest. Meerut SSP Ajay Kumar Sahni told The Indian Express that paramilitary forces including the PAC were deployed with local policemen and around 500 personnel were also brought in from Ghaziabad and Noida.
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