Giant hoardings asking “stone-pelting Kashmiris” to leave Uttar Pradesh have sprung up across Meerut in the communally sensitive belt, raising concerns over security of hundreds of students from the militancy-hit state.
Police said on Thursday they have asked the controversial ‘Uttar Pradesh Nav Nirman Sena’, which admitted to have put up the warning signs, to pull down the hoardings or face action.
A case has been registered against Amit Jani, the leader of the organisation, for allegedly spreading communal hatred and will be arrested soon, police added.
The hoardings appeared a day after a group of Kashmiri students of Mewar University in Rajasthan were allegedly called terrorists and assaulted by local residents, who were said to be upset over soldiers being targeted by stone-throwers in the strife-torn border state.
“Bhartiya sena par pathar maarne wale Kashmiryon ka bahishkar. Kashmiriyo Uttar Pradesh chodo warna (Boycott those Kashmiris who pelt stones at Indian Army. Kashmiris leave UP or....” warns a hoarding on a road in the city. The hoarding also carried the name of the organisation’s chief Amit Jani, a controversial and divisive figure in state politics.
The hoardings assume significance as they surfaced at a time when Kashmir valley is witnessing volatile situation after a number of video clips, including one showing a man tied to a military jeep as a human shield against stone-throwers, sparked anger in the state and divided opinion across the country.
“I have asked Amit Jani ( the president of the organisation) to remove the hoardings immediately or face a case,” said superintendent of police (city), Meerut Alok Priyadarshi.
Though the SP quoted Jani as saying that activists put up hoardings without his knowledge, the self-styled leader confessed to have installed dozens of such hoardings across the city. He also sent a handout with the pictures of the installed hoardings.
“We have put up these hoardings along the stretch of Delhi-Dehradun road passing through Meerut on NH-58 to send out a message against those who “disrespect Army and sympathise with Kashmir based separatists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik,” he said.
“There are hundreds of students from Kashmir in universities and colleges across UP who sympathise with separatists. We don’t want out educational institutions to develop feelings against army.”
Thirty-one year-old Jani, a resident of Janikhurd village in Meerut is infamous for creating controversies to allegedly seek publicity. Also known as Amit Agarwal and Amit Gupta, Jani shot to the limelight for the first time in 2012 when he was accused of vandalising a statue of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh at one of the memorials in the state capital Lucknow.
He served a six-month jail term after being arrested from a mall in Gurgaon and was let off on bail. Four years later, he organised a birthday celebration for Mayawati on her birthday on January 15 by cutting a 60-kg cake for her at Muzaffarnagar.
Considered a Samajwadi Party (SP) supporter, Jani started canvassing against Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi in Amethi ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In April 2016, Jani’s brother Saurabh Agarwal and aide Sulabh Bhardwaj were arrested by Delhi police for allegedly writing a threat letter to kill JNU students Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid for the duo’s purported remarks against the Indian army.
A college dropout, Jani is son of a wood merchant from Ghaziabad.
Before launching the Sena, he was a member of the Indian National Lok Dal in 2005. He also contested 2007 assembly polls on the party’s ticket from Meerut’s Khekra assembly seat in which he won just 1984 votes.