Lucknow: When journalist Omar Rashid was detained in Uttar Pradesh’s capital late Friday while the city witnessed violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, he was allegedly threatened with a particular jibe: “You will forget all your journalism”.
This remark came to light as the Lucknow correspondent of legacy newspaper The Hindu wrote a first-person account of his detention for “instigating violence” in the city, hours after he was let off.
Speaking to ThePrint, Rashid said the police at the Hazratganj station had an issue with his Kashmiri identity. He alleged that one policeman threatened to snatch his beard off and made obscene remarks against him.
“The cops repeatedly asked me about the whereabouts of some ‘Kashmiris’ and where I was hiding them. I replied to all their questions in the negative as I had no clue why I was brought there in the first place,” Rashid wrote in his account.
“They repeatedly said that my friends and I were involved in creating unrest,” he told ThePrint.
The police action came as the state capital saw a prolonged spell of protests and vandalism Friday amid a nationwide stir against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The local policemen caught Rashid while they were looking for those accused of vandalism.
According to Rashid, he was tortured for two hours inside the police station. He was released only when other journalists from other organisations reached the spot and the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) made a direct intervention.
ThePrint reached the top brass of the Uttar Pradesh Police but the officers chose not to comment on the issue.
How Rashid was picked up
Speaking about the police action, Omar Rashid said he was having his evening snack along with his friends at a hotel adjacent to the state BJP office Friday when some police personnel in plainclothes suddenly came there and took him aside for a conversation.
After that he was forcefully pushed inside a police jeep, he said.
He added that he clearly identified himself as a journalist and showed his identity card to the police personnel.
However, the police personnel snatched his phone and misbehaved with him, he alleged. Later on, he was allegedly locked up in a room at the police station and was beaten up along with his friend and activist Robin Verma who had accompanied him.
According to the journalist, when he raised questions against being taken to the police station, some police personnel told him to remain calm and also issued a threat to file a case under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy).
According to Omar Rashid, he was finally released in the late hours of the evening on the directions of Uttar Pradesh director general of police O.P. Singh following a direct intervention by the CMO.
NDTV journalist Alok Pandey, who had reached the police station to help Rashid, told ThePrint that as soon as he got information about the incident, he rushed to the police station and called Singh.
Later, Hazratganj area police officer visited him and apologised saying that he was picked up due to some kind of “misunderstanding”, said Rashid.
Now cops say it was a 'misunderstanding' . This is brazen intimidation and we all need to stand up against it ! @dgpup please explain this !
— Alok Pandey (@alok_pandey) December 20, 2019
Growing unrest in UP
The incident took place as demonstrations and protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act scaled up across Uttar Pradesh.
In the last two days, Lucknow has witnessed large scale vandalism and arson. Agitating crowds also disturbed peace in Meerut, Firozabad, Bahraich, Balrampur, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Gorakhpur, Kanpur and Gonda.
Until now, as many as 11 persons have died and hundreds have got injured in the widespread protests.