New Delhi: In the latest instance of crackdown against anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protesters in the state, the Uttar Pradesh police on Wednesday arrested 19 people for sedition, including a minor, in Azamgarh. The police have registered a case under several sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and named 35 persons in the FIR.
According to a statement released by the local police, the protesters were allegedly raising slogans against the government and nation. The police further claimed that “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 UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath.”
The protesters, who had been holding a sit-in against the CAA and NRC at Jauhar Park in the Kasimganj area of Biliryagaj, Azamgarh since Tuesday, have alleged that the police used force to evict them early in the morning on Wednesday. According to the Indian Express, when the women protesters questioned the police action, they were pelted with stones.
“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 while speaking to the newspaper. “All through this, police used communal slurs and all kinds of abuses,” claimed the woman, who refused to be identified, fearing a backlash.
“They used all their force to remove us from the protest site and when we did not give up, they caught the men and started beating them,” Yasmeen Khan, a protester told The Quint, adding “then, they pelted bricks and stones on us before resorting to lathicharge. This left many women injured.”
According to an eye-witness Hafiz Danish Falahi, a woman sustained serious injuries on her head and is reportedly in critical condition. The witness also said that children were injured in the chaos.
The district police have denied the allegations and claimed that women and children were “put at the front and were holding stones and lathis” and it was “part of a conspiracy”. The police also denied that they had conducted a lathi-charge but acknowledged that tear gas was used against protesters. Bilariyaganj Station Officer (SHO), Manoj Kumar Singh, said “six-seven tear gas shells were used on Wednesday morning. There was no lathi-charge”.
Meanwhile, there was heavy police deployment in the area and most shops have been shut. According to the Indian Express, protesters have alleged that police had filled the park with water to “stop them from holding a peaceful protest”. Most locals the newspaper spoke to said that the entire neighbourhood was living in fear of the police. “We are scared because the police have named so many people and can pick up anyone. They have invoked such serious charges against the protesters,” a shopkeeper told the newspaper, requesting anonymity.
According to the report, Sarwari Bano, the woman who had to undergo a surgery Wednesday after she was hit by a stone at the protest site has regained consciousness. “She is stable now. She has a clot on her brain because of the injury to her head and hence, we had to operate on her. The operation went well and she might be discharged soon,” said Dr Mohammad Arif, a staff employee at the private hospital in Azamgarh, where she has been hospitalised.
The minor arrested and booked for sedition and other charges, works as a cleaner in a dhaba. As per the news report, the family of the boy claimed that his date of birth is March 1, 2004. “We told the policemen that he is not 18. They did not listen to us and said that he is a rioter and will go to jail…He works as a cleaner at a dhaba and was on his way to work when he was picked up by police around 6:30 am on Wednesday,” his brother told the Indian Express.
Asked by the newspaper if the family has visited the boy in jail, his brother said, “No, we haven’t. Police told us that we can’t meet him yet. We will try again on Friday. We don’t have his birth certificate. We are uneducated and poor and keeping documents is not a priority for us. We did not see this day coming.”
Bilariyaganj SHO Manoj Kumar Singh said that the court will decide whether the boy is minor or not. “For us, he is a rioter. He was arrested from the spot and was sent to jail on Wednesday. It is up to the court to decide whether he is a minor or an adult,” Singh told the Indian Express on Thursday.