On December 19 Lucknow burnt. It was one of the worst riots the city of Nawabs and Tehzeeb had witnessed in the last three decades. People were beaten up. Rioters pelted stones, in which some of the passers- by and innocent people were injured. Two people died – one of them of gunshot injury but the mystery remains who opened fire – police or the rioters.
At the end of the day, the death toll remained uncertain with police confirming five deaths in the state but denying that they had opened fire on protesters. News agencies on Saturday morning claimed the death toll in the violence on Friday, December 20 had gone up to 11. But Uttar Pradesh DGP declared that not a single bullet had been fired by UP Police, a claim which awaits to be ascertained.
While the Government was quick to blame the protesters for unruly protests and violence, justifying the imposition of prohibitory orders and the use of force, fingers were also pointed to the ‘unseen’ political hands which allowed a large crowd to assemble at Parivartan Chowk. Several eyewitness accounts claimed that the protests were peaceful but violence was ‘engineered’.
The protest call was given by social organisations, members of civil society and the Samajwadi Party. They had announced that protests would be held at Parivartan Chowk and Hazratganj. The administration was ready as Section 144 was promulgated and any gathering was declared unlawful. DGP Singh went on record saying that all protests had been “declared illegal”—something which activists claimed was illegal and unconstitutional.
But the police apparently allowed rioters armed with stones and sticks to reach Parivartan Chowk and in the vicinity of Hazratganj. Why did the police not stop them in the old city?
The way rioters attacked the OB vans of electronic channels, cars and two-wheelers of journalists seemed to suggest that the mob had come prepared to target the media. Why would the protesters do that ? Who stood to benefit by attacking the media and the consequent ‘bad Press’? Or were the attacks orchestrated to give the protesters a bad name ?
Videos emerging after the riots are disturbing. In several of them, policemen can be seen damaging private vehicles of the people. In one of them, a few people emerging from a vehicle with BJP stickers are heard asking people to attack property.
The ruling BJP in the state seemed satisfied that the violent protests had served its twin purpose of polarising people on communal lines and to show members of the minority community throw stones.
UP Police have come up with a statement that a 'pink' pamphlet had been distributed among rioters and voiced apprehension that outsiders, possibly Bangladeshis, were involved in instigating the mob and inciting violence.
“Some of the people involved in violence were speaking in Bengali language which proves that outsiders were involved in it" DGP O.P. Singh said.
Sources claimed that the pink pamphlet distributed by one Rashtravadi Janwadi Morcha, claimed that the Aadhaar card and biometric details would be used to arrest members of the minorities by the Government.
The DGP said that already 100 people were detained or arrested in Lucknow in Lucknow alone, while the state-wide figure is over 3000--for their involvement in violence. More people will be taken into custody after scrutinising CCTV footage and videos, he added.
The Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of UP police has also been engaged to find out whether any terrorist organisation was involved in the violence in the state capital.
The officials said that as many as 3305 people were detained in the state for violating prohibitory orders and holding protests and other ‘illegal’ acts. Five people were arrested and 13 FIRs have been registered for posting objectionable posts on social media.
Besides, as many as 1786 tweets, 3037 Facebook posts and 38 Youtube videos have been deleted, confirmed the police.
The state government has also extended prohibitory orders under section 144 of the CrPC in the entire state till January 31,2020.