Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was reassuring a gathering in Delhi that his government has never discriminated on the basis of religion, Uttar Pradesh Police have sealed hundreds of shops owned by the Muslims, alleging that they were among the protesters and had engaged in violence.
In several West UP districts, the administration is said to have sealed even those shops which had their shutters down on Friday. The police sealed 67 shops on Arya Samaj Road and Vikas Bhawan Road near Meenakshi Chowk in Muzaffarnagar.
“The fact that the shutters were down indicated their complicity; they must have known about the impending disturbances,” reasoned officials.
The District Magistrate of Lucknow also went on record to say that miscreants had been identified and the exercise to confiscate their property had started.
Reports reaching from Muzaffarnagar spoke of Muslims being terrorised and forced to leave for safety. Amidst allegations that policemen vandalised houses and private vehicles, members of the minority community are being forced to hand over statements giving a clean chit to the police, reports held. Pickets have been placed outside Muslim mohallas with heavy police presence in the areas.
In a shocking development, the police has booked a few prominent persons of the town who were helping the police in placating the crowds as accused in rioting.
The police also lifted prominent Shia cleric Maulana Asad along with others and allegedly tortured the 60-year-old cleric. He is currently hospitalised with multiple injuries and fracture.
Reports also came of mobile phone services including voice calls having been totally shut in Muslim majority areas of Khalapar, Khadarwala, Kidwai Nagar, Mallupura and Naddawala, while the phone services, including mobile internet, have been restored in other areas of the town.
Meanwhile, four TMC MPs- Dinesh Trivedi, Protima Mandal, Nadimul Haq and Adhir Vishwas- Who arrived at Lucknow airport on Sunday to visit the areas affected in the December 19 violence and meet victims’ family, were detained by the police. UP DGP O.P. Singh had already declared that no Opposition MP or delegation would be allowed to visit the affected areas in view of prohibitory orders being in place.
In Rampur too Farooq Rahmani, a known Muslim face in Rampur and office-bearer of Ittehad Naujawan Committee was arrested and charged with IPC section 147 (rioting) and 307 (Attempt to murder) when he was trying to placate some Muslim youth in Gher Mohella in old city area.
Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan, 28, was arrested and charged with rioting when he was returning home after purchasing medicine for his ailing mother. He showed the prescription of the doctor and the medicines to police as a proof that he had gone to purchase medicine but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
As Uttar Pradesh burns in the aftermath of anti-CAA protest the ‘skull cap’, associated with Muslims, has become the target of Uttar Pradesh police. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that rioters could be identified from their dress, the police acted on the cue and targeted anyone who is Muslim, branding them as anti-national.
Even a journalist with The Hindu, Omar Rashid, was arrested merely because he looked like a ‘Kashmiri’ while he was having tea with a Rihai Manch leader.
Those who were arrested were booked under different sections for rioting, unlawful assembly, attempt to murder, wrongful confinement, criminal intimidation, criminal assault on public servant etc. They were also booked for alleged criminal conspiracy and under Public Property Damage Act.
Allegations have however been levelled that BJP and RSS workers and supporters were engaged in violence and vandalism. Reports named a ABVP leader who allegedly led the attack on police. Similarly, some RSS workers are accused of orchestrating the violence in Gorakhpur – the home turf of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
(With inputs from Aas Mohammad Kaif in Muzaffarnagar)