LUCKNOW: At least 11 people, including an 8-year-old boy, have lost their lives in Uttar Pradesh as the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act turned violent in the state, officials said.
After Friday prayers, protesters clashed with police at several places in the state and hurled stones and torched vehicles, they said.
On Friday, four deaths were reported from Meerut district and two each in Kanpur and Bijnor. An 8-year-old boy was killed in a stampede in Varanasi when a violent mob was being chased by policemen.
Besides, violence claimed a life each in Sambhal and Firozabad, the officials said. Amid a Bandh call in Rampur on Saturday, around 400 to 500 protestors, including children in the age group of 12-18 years, gathered at some distance from the Eidgah in the city and stones were pelted at policemen, officials said.
“Five protestors were injured, one of them seriously, during the clash. Around a dozen others suffered minor injuries due to tear gas shelling, while over a dozen policemen also got hurt during stone pelting,” Rampur DM Aunjaneya Singh told PTI over phone.
He suspected involvement of some non-locals in the protest and said police did not open fire anywhere yet one protestor had a gunshot injury. After a lull of four days, AMU campus again witnessed protests on Saturday with hundreds of AMU non-teaching staff joining hands with AMU teachers’ association, protesting against the CAA and “police atrocities” against the agitators in various parts of the state.
Police had to use mild force on Friday evening to disperse a large crowd of protestors at Shahjamal under Delhi Gate police station in Aligarh. In the western UP district of Kasganj, internet services were suspended following tension, but police described the situation as under control.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who Friday night issued an appeal not to pay heed to rumours and help maintain peace and order, is keeping a close watch on the situation and is reported to have cancelled all his programmes outside the state capital.
“None indulging in violence will be spared,” Adityanath said in a tweet, asserting that every citizen will be provided security.
Director General of Police O P Singh on Friday said that 50 policemen were seriously injured in the violence. He maintained even on Saturday that police did not open fire and all the deaths have been due to cross firing between protestors.
“All the deaths that took place have been in cross firing and this will become clear in postmortem examination,” the DGP told reporters.
“We are clear and transparent in this. If anyone died due to our fire we will conduct a judicial inquiry and take action. But nothing happened from our side,” the DGP stressed.
“Women and children were used as shields by the protestors. I myself saw women and young girls were present during protests in Lucknow and asked them to go. A child died in stampede in Varanasi where children were present in the group of protestors who ran while police lathi charged them. These children do not know what citizenship is and they were present with stones,” he said.
“Of the 75 districts in the state, one-fourth have been affected where thousands collected after namaz and defied the law. We had contacted the religious leaders and they had promised that there would be peace but still the protestors collected 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 for dispersing the mob. Warning that those who indulged in violence will not be let off, he said innocents have nothing to worry about as arrests will be done only after proper inquiry.
Noting that there is a role of ‘outsiders’ in the violence that took place in the districts, he said members of political parties and belonging to NGOs could also be present in the protests.
Asked about the possibility of the role of any Bangladeshi national, the DGP said investigation was on and the UP police was probing every angle. So far 218 people have been arrested in Lucknow, he said.
Police patrolling is going on and prominent persons in all the districts have been contacted and their help sought in maintaining law and order. Clashes with police on Friday were reported from Bhadohi, Bahraich, Amroha, Farurukhabad, Ghaziabad, Varanasi, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Hapur, Hathras, Bulandshahr, Hamirpur and Mahoba districts and cases have been registered. Internet services were suspended across major cities in Uttar Pradesh, following state government orders.
These included Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Agra, Aligarh, Ghaziabad, Varanasi, Mathura, Meerut, Moradabad, Muzaffarnagar, Bareli, Firozadad, Pilibhit, Rampur, Saharanpur, Shamli, Sambhal, Amroha, Mau, Azamgarh and Sultanpur. Following continued opposition to the CAA and the proposed nation-wide NRC, BSP president Mayawati asked the Centre to give up its “stubborn stand” and withdraw its decisions.
“Now that voices opposed to the CAA and NRC have started coming from within the NDA, the central government should give up its stubborn stand and withdraw its decisions,” she said in a tweet in Hindi. “Also, it is an appeal to protesters to express their opposition in a peaceful manner,” the Bahujan Samaj Party chief added.