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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

CAA protests spread across UP, toll now 15, CM Adityanath issues appeal for peace

Among dead, 8-yr-old in Varanasi; DGP denies any casualties in police firing

Written by Manish Sahu , Avaneesh Mishra , Asad Rehman , Kaunain Sheriff M | Amroha, Kanpur, Lucknow | Published: December 22, 2019 4:52:19 am
Policemen on guard at Court Chowraha in Amroha on Saturday following Friday’s clash. (Express photo: Praveen Khanna)

With violence in Rampur leaving one dead and five injured on Saturday, the total number of deaths in the three days of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Uttar Pradesh has reached 15, including an eight-year-old boy.

Earlier, four deaths were reported from Meerut, two each from Firozabad, Kanpur, Sambhal, Bijnor, and one each from Lucknow and Varanasi. The eight-year-old was killed and another minor left injured in a stampede that followed a police lathicharge in Varanasi Friday. Another person injured in the stampede is said to be serious.

In the evening, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath made an appeal to religious leaders and intellectuals to help the administration maintain peace and to spread “actual information” on the CAA. Internet has been suspended in several major cities of the state, including Lucknow.

Violence was also reported from Bihar, with at least 24 people receiving injuries, including bullet injuries. There was large-scale vandalism and disruption of rail and road traffic during a bandh called by opposition parties against the CAA.

In Delhi, that saw violent clashes Friday, security remained tight in the affected areas of Old Delhi and Seemapuri. Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Azad, who had evaded police all through Friday, was finally arrested around 2 am on Saturday after he emerged from the Jama Masjid and surrendered. He was sent to judicial custody for 14 days.

Read | In Kanpur, a police outpost damaged, cop critical; 2 victims’ kin await bodies

Uttar Pradesh DGP O P Singh maintained that no death had taken place in the state due to police firing. “All the deaths have been in cross-firing and this will become clear in postmortem… Women and children were used as shields by protestors,” he told reporters in Lucknow Saturday. “We are clear on this. If anyone died due to our firing, we will conduct a judicial inquiry and take action. But nothing happened from our side.”

Violence began at Rampur’s Hati Khana crossing on Saturday morning when protesters allegedly attacked a police team and fired at them. Police countered with lathicharge and tear gas. In the violence, a 27-year-old sweets shop owner, Faiz Khan, was shot in the neck and died. The situation was controlled within an hour.

Also read | Citizenship protests: Situation calm in Muzaffarnagar, says UP Police

Police said protesters had gathered at a Rampur Eidgah on a call by six ulemas, and heavy force had been deployed to prevent any untoward incident. They said the group was returning after handing a memorandum to district officials when a big number from among them started assembling at Hati Khana, 200 metres from the Eidgah, and started raising slogans.

Calling the violence “pre-planned” and “premeditated”, District Magistrate, Rampur, Aunjaneya Kumar Singh said the protesters tried to break the police barricades and when police tried to stop them, started pelting stones. There was also firing when police used force, a senior officer said.

Police are looking at the role of “outsiders”, and searching for local residents who gave them “shelter”. “A few miscreants had covered their faces,” the DM said, adding that several also had young children with them so that police would not act against them. Singh denied that Khan had died in police firing, and said the condition of the five injured is stable.

Read | UP govt moves to identify ‘miscreants’, analyse photos, videos

Khan’s brother-in-law Mohammad Shiraj said, “I was not present at the spot but people told me he was shot by police. Faiz suffered a bullet injury in his neck.”

The Varanasi minors, police said, were inadvertently caught in a clash when protesters gathered in hundreds in the bylanes of Bajardeeh locality of Bhelupur Police Station, near where three-four of them were playing, Friday. Police said the protesters pelted stones and they hit back with lathis, resulting in the stampede. Varanasi SSP Prabhakar Chaudhary said, “A part of the protesters trampled over the children, not realising what they were doing.”

While Mohammad Sageer, 8, succumbed to his injuries, two-three remain in hospital. Varanasi DM Kaushal Raj Sharma said 11 people were injured, apart from eight policemen, including the Station House Officer of Lanka Police Station, in the clash. Sources said the district administration has written to the government to provide ex-gratia to the family of Sageer.

In Amroha district, police registered an FIR against at least 55 locals, charging them with rioting and attempt to murder after two separate incidents of stonepelting. On Friday noon, rumours had spread of a scuffle between residents and police over CAA protests in the Vasavangunj area, located 2 km from Amroha’s Jama Masjid. “After this locals from different parts gathered at Court Chauraha after the Friday namaz. In order to control the crowd, police did lathicharge, and there was stonepelting by a few miscreants in response,” Akhtar Ali, an Amroha resident, said.

Additional SP Ajay Pratap said they have put up screenshots across Amroha of video footage to help identify the miscreants. While the situation is now peaceful, prohibitory orders continue to be in place, including an Internet shutdown, while forces have been deployed around all the mosques.

In Kanpur, a mob torched a police post amid tension in the town, where bodies of two people who died in Friday’s protests were brought to the Eidgah.

In Aligarh, police had to use mild force on Friday evening to disperse a large crowd of protesters at Shahjamal under Delhi Gate Police Station. Aligarh SSP Ashok Kulhari said protests had been peaceful and that ‘shahr mufti’ Khalid Hamid played an important role in defusing tension.

In the western district of Kasganj, Internet services were suspended following tension, but police described the situation as under control.

Police have filed 124 FIRs in all in connection with the CAA violence in the state, arrested 705, taken into custody around 4,500, and claims to have recovered more than 400 cartridges. Besides, it has lodged 63 FIRs and arrested 102 over hate speech. The arrested include six people from Malda district in West Bengal, police said.

It put the number of its injured personnel at around 263, including 57 who got bullet injuries.

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