Protests over CAA continue, death toll in UP climbs to 17
Situation was tense in Kanpur, where rioters exchanged gunfire and fought pitched battles with the police in the Yateem Khana and Talaq Mahal neighbourhoods after a day of calm
Relentless protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, claimed eight more lives in Uttar Pradesh, taking the death toll in India’s most populated state to at least 17, and the spiral of violence spread to neighbouring Bihar during a one-day strike organised by the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) against the contentious law on Saturday.
One man died in renewed protests against the CAA on Saturday in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur, where rock-throwing protestors, who also engaged in arson, clashed with the police, officials said. Additional central paramilitary forces were despatched to the town as the violence erupted after the administration denied permission for a demonstration called by Muslim clerics.
And as night fell, the situation was tense in Kanpur, where rioters exchanged gunfire and fought pitched battles with the police in the Yateem Khana and Talaq Mahal neighbourhoods after a day of calm, said superintendent of police, rural, Praduman Singh. One policeman and two rioters were injured by bullets and hospitalised, he added.
In New Delhi, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday alleged that opposition parties led by the Congress had unleashed a misinformation campaign to counter which it said it would begin a massive outreach programme. BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav said the party would reach out to at least 30 million families and in addition organise a rally in each district of the country and also hold over 250 press conferences to expose the “lies” being spread by opposition parties.
UP governor Anandiben Patel appealed to the people to maintain peace in the state and said the government will protect every citizen. “Such protests yield no result but destroy public property and harm people,” she said in a statement after being briefed on the situation by chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
Uttar Pradesh has reported the highest death toll in protests that have taken place in the aftermath of this month’s passage of the CAA, which seeks to fast-track the grant of Indian citizenship to members of minority communities in the Muslim-majority countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis. The death toll rose to 17 in the state, with the fatalities in Saturday’s unrest and the overnight deaths of six people hurt in clashes on Friday.
Five people were killed in Meerut — the most anywhere in UP — with the overnight deaths of four people. Two each died in Kanpur, Bijnor and Firozabad and one each in Muzaffarnagar, Sambhal and Varanasi in Friday’s violence. One person died in Rampur. An eight-year-old boy was killed in Varanasi after a lathi-charge triggered a stampede, and his funeral was performed on Saturday amid tight security. On Thursday, one person was killed in Lucknow.
Large-scale violence and arson erupted in several districts of Uttar Pradesh soon after the Friday prayers despite a massive deployment of the police and clampdown on internet services. Officials said the clampdown on internet services was extended to seven more districts on Saturday, taking the number to 21. Inspector general of police (law and order) Praveen Kumar confirmed a total of 15 deaths, including four in Meerut, two each in Kanpur, Firozabad, Bijnor and Sambhal and one each in Rampur and Muzaffarnagar since Friday while one death was reported in Lucknow violence on Thursday. He maintained that none of the deaths had been caused by police firing.
Two people were brought dead with gunshot wounds on Friday to the Meerut Medical College and Hospital, where two more injured people died of injuries, said chief medical officer, Dr Harsh Wardhan. “Apart from them, several from nearby districts have been sent here for treatment,” he said, adding the injured included a police constable. Five deaths have been reported from Assam and one from Karnataka’s Mangaluru, putting the national death toll in protests against the CAA at least 24.
In Kanpur, people came out on the streets starting at noon on Saturday after reports of the deaths of two people who were injured in police firing on Friday. Their numbers swelled when the All India Union Muslim League organised a sit-in at Dr Berry Crossing against the CAA and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). As the sit-in ended, the people moved towards Yateem Khana and demanded a compensation of ₹50 lakh each to families of the victims and withdrawal of all criminal cases against the protesters, eyewitnesses said. Police said they exchanged several rounds of gunfire with rioters on the densely populated Yateem Khana-Talaq Mahal stretch. The rioters allegedly threw petrol bombs on the police and also set the Yateem Khana police post and several vehicles on fire, said superintendent of police, East, Rajkumar Agarwal. They also damaged 30 other vehicles, he added. Heavy police force was deployed in the area to bring the situation under control. Police said a sub-inspector and few other policemen were injured in the attack. “Officers and policemen are conducting raids to nab rioters who retreated in lanes and by-lanes,” said an officer at the scene.
Hundreds of people, including women and social activists, were arrested in the districts across the state as police increased vigilance in areas prone to violence. In Meerut range, comprising of the six districts of Meerut, Baghpat, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddha Nagar, 102 people were arrested and 10 cases of rioting and arson lodged, officials said. Police in Kanpur have arrested 40 people and lodged 12 first information reports (FIRs) against 15,000 unidentified people in 10 police stations under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In Prayagraj, cases have been registered against 10,000 unidentified people for violating prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
In Bihar, violence erupted during the shutdown strike organised by the opposition RJD and supported by other opposition parties including the Congress. Members of two communities fought at four places — Patna, Nawada, Aurangabad and Gopalganj — on Saturday, police said.
The clash between two communities erupted in the communally sensitive Phulwari Sharif area of Patna in which 25 people were said to be grievously injured in stone pelting and firing, a police official who did not wish to be named said. Ten of them were referred to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Patna with bullet injuries and one person was hospitalised with stab wounds, the police said. The situation was brought under control when the Rapid Action Force and armed district police arrived at the spot. About six tear gas shells were lobbed by the police to disperse the crowd, police said, adding they also resorted to a mild lathi-charge.
In Patna, while vehicles were damaged, at least half a dozen journalists and photographers, both from print and electronic media, were targeted by RJD supporters, the police said. One of them received serious injuries and another was thrashed by RJD workers at Patna’s Dak Bungalow Chowk, the police said.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav had called for Bihar Bandh on Saturday against the CAA and NRC. RJD workers vandalised auto rickshaws in Bihar’s Bhagalpur. In Darbhanga, RJD workers shouted slogans against Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and the central government. Bihar’s additional director general of police (headquarters) Jitendra Kumar said that barring stray incidents of violence and forced closure of shops in some cities, the bandh in the state remained peaceful. More than 500 RJD leaders and activists were taken into preventive custody from various other parts of the state.
In New Delhi, BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav accused opposition parties of disturbing the peace in the country.
“Some opposition parties, especially Congress, is indulging in politics of lies and rumours. Opposition is causing disturbance in the country with their lies and rumours. We will expose them and bring out the truth,” Yadav said.