A 65-year-old man was killed and nearly 30 people including 10 police personnel were injured in a clash here between Shia protesters and the police as a march towards minister Azam Khan’s house turned violent.
Shia cleric Kalbe Jawad had announced the protest to oppose the minister’s alleged move to nominate some individuals to the Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board.
The protester who died was identified as Karar Mehdi, a resident of Muftiganj.
Two police officials, including a sub-inspector, were stated to be serious and undergoing treatment in Balrampur hospital.
Jawad alleged Mehndi was killed by police cane charge. Deputy inspector general of police Navniet Sekera, who was present at the spot, however, said the protester’s death was caused by heart attack.
Mehndi reportedly fell on the ground during the violence. He was rushed to the trauma centre of King George’s Medical University, where he died during treatment.
The clash broke out when Jawad, along with thousands of followers, was moving towards Waqf minister Khan’s house after Alvida Namaz on Friday. The police stopped them near Shaheed Smarak.
The protesters tried to jump over the barricading, attacked police personnel, snatched the service revolver of sub-inspector Hari Om Srivastava and beat him up. The police then cane charged the protesters.
The police said the protesters resorted to arson, vandalism and threw stones. At least two vehicles, including a Provincial Armed Constabulary van, were set on fire and six other vehicles were damaged in the violence.
“We tried to stop them, but they tried to breach the barricades. We had to apply force to disperse them. Some protesters also hit police personnel with sticks,” Lucknow senior superintendent of police Praveen Kumar said.
Condemning the use of force by the police, Jawad said, “They beat rozedars (fasting faithfuls) during which one protester died due to police atrocities.”
Jawad later sat on a dharna near Shaheed Smarak with his followers, throwing traffic out of gear.
The violence spread to some parts of the Old City. The protest ended when the cleric, along with his supporters, was arrested and taken to the Police Lines where he was held till last reports came in.
Khan was in Rampur when the protesters tried to march to his house.
Samajwadi Party and I have nothing to do with the board: Azam Khan
Senior minister Azam Khan said he would quit if even a single member or office-bearer of the Shia Waqf Board was found to be a nominee of his or the party.
“Both the Samajwadi Party (SP) government and I have nothing to do with the board. We did not constitute it nor was it constituted in the SP government’s tenure. It was constituted in the previous Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) tenure,” Khan said.
He said the people leading protests now had constituted the board under the BSP regime.
“I only insisted and ensured that the election for the chairman be held after Ramzan and Eid. The election for new chairman of the board has to be held because the previous chairman, who was related to this dharmguru (religious leader Kalbe Jawad), had quit,” said Azam.
“Let the elections happen and let this dharmguru get his nominee elected, I will welcome whosoever wins the election," Khan told HT over phone from Rampur.
The minister said that some dharmgurus and people hold a grouse against him. “They do not like me because whenever I am Waqf minister, I do not let even a paisa of property — be it of Shia Waqf Board or Sunni Waqf Board — to be sold. While whenever I am not the minister, property is literally looted — sold indiscriminately.”
Commenting on the protest and the violence, Azam said it was a deliberate attempt to vitiate the atmosphere, which most certainly must have pleased the Bharatiya Janata Party.
When asked why was he not in Lucknow even though the protest was announced three days ago, Azam replied, “Talk of my deliberate absence from Lucknow is absurd. On this day, every year, I am at my home in Rampur. I offer this day’s prayer in my home, which is in Rampur not in Lucknow.
“The house in Lucknow is a government house. I won’t offer this prayer in government quarters.”
(With inputs from Pankaj Jaiswal)