Muzaffarnagar: There will be more arrests in Muzaffarnagar in connection with the violence that erupted during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act last week, leading to the death of one person.
As many as 48 people have already been arrested so far and they are in judicial custody.
“There will be more arrests. We are basing these arrests on evidence in our video footage as well as that of journalists’,” Muzaffarnagar Superintendent of Police Satpal Antil told ThePrint.
Those arrested have been charged with rioting, attempt to murder and attempt to disrupt peace, among other offences.
Meanwhile, fear has gripped the residents of Muzaffarnagar as they feel they could be “next in line”.
‘Don’t know where police took my father & brothers’
Residents have complained of arbitrary arrests by police.
Naushad, a 26-year-old youth, was injured in the violence that took place after Friday prayers, following which he was taken to a nearby hospital. Four of Naushad’s family members had gone to visit him when the police arrived at the hospital and arrested all of them, along with Naushad.
“They called us right before getting arrested, saying that the police are taking them away. Our father and brothers went merely to visit Naushad in the hospital, and the police took them away too,” Muhammad Wajid, Naushad’s elder brother, told ThePrint.
Wajid said he has no idea where the police had taken them.
It’s, however, not just the arrests, but even destruction of property, including mosques and homes, that has instilled fear among the residents.
Late on Friday night, at around 12.30 am, about 70-100 men allegedly broke the lock of 74-year-old Anwar Ilahi’s home, smashed his car’s glass and destroyed nearly everything that came their way as they went up the three floors of his home, shouting his name. Ilahi claimed not all men were in police uniform — many were in civilian clothes.
While Ilahi, still unsure about what befell him, was taken to the police vehicle parked outside, the men continued to destroy his property, his family charged.
“After destroying everything, they took away the jewellery we had kept for the marriages of our two daughters. They even took away Rs 3.5 lakh cash that we had,” Ilahi’s wife, Hajjan Fakhra, said.
Ilahi said he was kept in police custody for two days, before being released Sunday afternoon.
“I’ve spent my entire life in Muzaffarnagar. I have never felt this kind of terror and fear — not even during the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots,” he added.
Azhar Khan, a correspondent of a local news channel Tehzeeb TV, echoed similar sentiments. “The Muzaffarnagar riots were a Hindu versus Muslim issue. Today, it’s men in uniforms entering houses and disrupting peace. That’s causing severe distrust,” Khan told ThePrint.
‘Don’t know how I will feed my two children now’
Shanno, 19, shivered as she talked, trying to make sense of her husband’s death while comforting her one-and-half-year-old daughter, Umaira. Shanno, who is seven months pregnant with her second child, lost her husband, Noor Muhammad (25), in the violence last Friday.
“I have no one but him. There’s no one at my sasural. He’s all I had. I don’t know how I will feed my two children now,” Shanno said.
While Muhammad’s family isn’t sure as to who shot at him, SP Antil said that he is 100 per cent sure there was no police firing during the protests.
The cries of Shanno’s daughter are contrasted by the eerie silence at Meenakshi Chowk — an otherwise bustling street. It was at this chowk where most of the violence took place.
A few of the 70-odd shops in the area have been sealed after the violence.
SP Antil said sealing of shops is an administrative decision. “We don’t have any say in this.”
Only those who were part of the rioting should fear, says SP
But it isn’t just Meenakshi Chowk that is silent. Even Darziyan Gali, where Abdul Kareem mosque was allegedly vandalised by the police, is silent.
“Look at what they did to this mosque. How will anyone speak up now? There’s just a lot of dread,” said a resident, who lives near the mosque and refused to be identified.
Asked about the palpable fear that has gripped people, the SP said, “Only those who were part of the rioting should fear. No one else.”
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.