Those arrested were among 35 persons named in the FIR, police said, including a woman identified as Munni Bano who was released “as she is a heart patient”. All those arrested were sent to jail, police said.
The protesters, including a number of women, alleged that they were pelted with stones by police who also launched a lathi-charge at the site. The police denied they had conducted a lathi-charge but acknowledged that tear gas was used against protesters at Jauhar Ali Park in the Kasimganj area.
Bilariyaganj Station Officer, Manoj Kumar Singh, said “six-seven tear gas shells were used on Wednesday morning”. “There was no lathi-charge…The rioters started pelting police with stones and also women sitting inside the park. Then, tear gas shells were used. The women got hurt because of stone-pelting by people who had gathered near the park,” Singh claimed.
The protesters, who had gathered on Tuesday afternoon, claimed that police “surrounded the park from all sides” at around 4 am Wednesday, and beat the “boys and men who were standing nearby”.
They claimed that when the women questioned the police action, they were pelted with stones. “Then, the men and boys were caught and arrested. After that, we were lathicharged. Some women have sustained injuries,” claimed a 45-year-old woman protester.
“All through this, police used communal slurs and all kinds of abuses,” claimed the woman, who refused to be identified fearing a “backlash”.
The protesters also alleged that “after the women vacated the park, police flooded” the site with water to prevent them from gathering there again.
In a statement, however, district police claimed that the presence of women and children, who were “put at the front and were holding stones and lathis”, was “part of a conspiracy”.
“They were raising slogans against the government, nation… They were saying they will snatch azadi and will get azadi anyhow. They were making hateful announcements against the Hindu religion. They were abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath,” the statement claimed.
At least one woman — Sarwari Bano (65) — was seriously injured in the incident. “My mother sustained an injury to her head and was operated upon today. Doctors say her brain has been damaged. We live next to the park and when there was chaos, she went out to check and was injured. I don’t know who threw the stone that hit her,” said Bano’s son Bilal.
“Doctors have said that she is out of danger,” he said.
An FIR was lodged at Bilariyaganj police station under various IPC sections, including 124-A (sedition), 147 (rioting), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 504 (insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 307 (attempt to murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and under sections of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and CLA Act.
Azamgarh police have also announced a reward of Rs 25,000 for information on three persons accused of rioting. They have confiscated four motorcycles claiming that they “were used by the rioters”.