Uttar Pradesh: Congress minority cell head arrested for rioting was in police custody at the time

When violence broke out in Lucknow on the afternoon of December 19 last year, Shahnawaz Alam was in Police Lines, detained with others following an anti-CAA protest

Uttar Pradesh: Congress minority cell head arrested for rioting was in police custody at the time

NH Correspondent/Lucknow

Lucknow Police on March 6 this year had put up large hoardings with names, photographs and addresses of 53 people, who were allegedly involved in rioting in the capital on December 19, 2019. The list included retired IPS officer S.R. Darapuri and activist Sadaf Jafar among others. They had all been arrested the same day and spent several weeks in prison.

The name of Shahnawaz Alam did not figure in the billboards. Possibly because he along with others were taken into custody before the violence and taken to Police Lines.

Surely someone who was in the custody of police could not have taken part in violence outside at the same time?

But that is precisely the charge under which Alam, chairman of the minority cell of the UPCC, was arrested on June 29, prompting Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to accuse the Yogi Government for the politically motivated arrests.

There are other loopholes in the police version. While it claims that it had been investigating the incident of December 19 and collecting evidence since then, Alam was neither interrogated nor confronted with any evidence during the last six and a half months. But his name cropped up in the charge sheet filed late in June and thereafter police arrested him, without a warrant and without assigning any reason.

Disturbances in Lucknow on December 19 last year were recorded on camera by TV channels, photographers as well as activists. Sadaf Jafar was in fact live streaming the protest on her facebook page and remonstrating with the police to act against the miscreants, when she was taken into custody. The allegation was that the violence was planned and executed with the blessings of the police, which was why no action was taken against the perpetrators, who were not among the protestors.

As many as 55 people were finally arrested by the police between December 19 and December 22 in connection with the violence. Shahnawaj Alam was not one of them. He had actually been let off along with other detained people from the Police Lines. Why then has his name cropped up now?

“Shahnawaz was with me that day. He was part of the Congressmen protesting against the CAA and was certainly not involved in rioting,” said Congress state president Ajay Kumar Lallu. “If he was part of the rioting, then I too was a part of it. If Shahnawaz is guilty then why not me,” the UPCC president asked rhetorically.

Human Rights activist Ashish Awasthi was with Shahnawaz when police swooped on them at around 8.30 pm on June 29.

“We were in a Bolero jeep of the party when police intercepted us near Golf Link Apartment gate. They did not show any paper. They just picked Shahnawaz and whisked him away in the police jeep. They also took away the party jeep. We thought Shahnawaz being Chairman of UPCC Minority Cell and the local police being under instruction to hound the Congress had something to do with his arrest,” he recalls.

“Later, we learnt that he was arrested for the anti-CAA protest in December,” Awasthi said.

“On December 19, 2019 Shahnawaz was in Police Lines. He was picked up between 1.30 and 2 pm and the riots started after 3.15 pm. How could he have instigated rioting in Hazratganj an hour later,” Awasthi wondered.

Why did it take the police six months to collect proof against Shahnawaz? And why arrest him now when most of the others who were arrested at the time have been released on bail?

Ajay Kumar Lallu has the answer.

“Look who is arrested. He is chairman of the minority cell of UPCC. He is Muslim. The BJP government wants to communalise the issue and therefore picked him up. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has no answer to the questions being raised daily by Priyanka Gandhi; therefore they are trying to silence and intimidate Congress workers,” he said.

Sadaf Jafar and retired IPS officer S R Darapuri among others were booked under different IPC sections including 147 (rioting), 307 (attempt to murder), 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).

But in the case of Sadaf and Darapuri the police had failed to prove that they were involved in rioting. While giving bail on January 4, 2020 the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court said that “ … there was no clear evidence so far against the accused regarding their involvement in the arson during the anti-CAA protests and that the police were trying to collect more evidence as the investigation in the matter was still going on”.

“Shahnawaz was never involved in rioting. This case is politically motivated. The Yogi government wants to tame Congress but this arrest has invigorated party workers, who will now intensify their fight against the government,” said Lallu.

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Published: 01 Jul 2020, 4:49 PM