Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh Police chief on Saturday maintained that police did not open fire during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, suggesting that those who died were caught in cross-firing between protesters.
At least 11 people, including an 8-year-old boy, died as protests against the contentious law in the state turned violent on Friday.
According to officials, four deaths were reported from Meerut district and two from Kanpur and the boy was killed in a stampede in Varanasi when a violent mob was being chased by policemen.
Two people lost their lives in Bijnor and one each in Sambhal and Firozabad, they said.
“All the deaths took place in cross-firing and this will become clear in the post-mortem examination,” said Director General of Police (DGP), Uttar Pradesh, O.P. Singh.
“We are clear and transparent on this. If anyone died due to our firing, we will conduct a judicial inquiry and take action. But nothing happened from our side,” he asserted.
On Friday, protesters clashed with police at several places in the state, hurling stones at them and torching vehicles. Fifty policemen were seriously injured in the violence, the officials said.
Of the 75 districts in the state, one-fourth have been affected. Thousands gathered after Friday prayers and defied the law, Singh said.
He said “outsiders” were involved in the violence and members of political parties and NGOs could also have been present.
According to the DGP, police had reached out to religious leaders and they had assured that there would be peace.
“But still protesters gathered and indulged in violence and at some places they also fired with illegal weapons,” he said.
Police had no option but to resort to lathi-charge to chase them away, he said, adding that tear gas shells were also fired.
Singh claimed protesters used women and children as shields.
“I myself saw women and young girls were present during the protests in Lucknow and asked them to go.
“A child died in a stampede in Varanasi where children were present in a group of protestors, who ran when police lathi-charged them. These children do not know what citizenship is and they were present there with stones,” he said.
Singh said 218 people have been arrested in Lucknow so far.
Those indulging in violence will not be let off. Innocents have nothing to worry about as arrests will be made only after proper inquiry, he said.
Patrolling is being carried out and police have sought help from prominent people in all districts in maintaining peace, he said.
According to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), non-Muslim refugees, who came to India before December 31, 2014, to escape religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will be granted Indian citizenship.
Protests against the law, which critics allege discriminates on the basis of religion, have rapidly spread across the country.
Over the last few days, protesters have fought pitched battles with police in most major cities of the country, including the national capital of Delhi, prompting authorities to impose prohibitory orders and temporarily suspend internet services in some places.