Police in Lucknow picked up a journalist from The Hindu newspaper from a restaurant in the city on Friday evening and detained him for over two hours at a police station and then a police post, even as protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act raged in the city.
“Around 6:45 pm on Friday evening, I was trying to grab a quick meal at a dhaba outside the Uttar Pradesh
BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] office, waiting to hear about a press conference to be held by the UP government a few blocks away, when at least four men in plainclothes barged in,” Omar Rashid said in a first-person account The Hindu published.
“I was accompanied by Robin Verma, a local activist and friend, and two others, both journalists,” Rashid said. “The men did not identify themselves and inquired about us using strong and aggressive language. They told me they wanted to question me about something.”
Rashid said he revealed that he was a journalist and asked the men what the matter was. “However, they packed the two of us, Robin Verma and me, into a police jeep, snatched my mobile phone and asked me to not call or inform anyone or I would regret it,” he added. Rashid also said he was warned not to ask questions.
Rashid said the duo was driven to the Hazratganj Police Station, and told that a senior police officer wanted to talk to them. They were then led into a room which looked like a cell, where policemen began to beat up Verma with a thick leather belt and slapped him many times, Rashid alleged.
“The policemen threatened me they would book me under [Section] 120B of the Indian Penal Code if I didn’t keep quiet and also said they had evidence to show I was part of the arsonists who vandalized police property and engaged in violence during the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act,” Rashid added. Though one of the policemen knew Rashid as a journalist, the others did not consider this point.
“They responded by abusing me and said I should keep my journalism to myself, in abusive Hindi,” Rashid said. “My Kashmiri background was referred to several times and despite informing them about my newspaper, they continued with their questions and threats.” The journalist said the police made the same charges against Verma, who they continued to beat up.
Following this, the duo was put into a police jeep and driven a few kilometres away to the Sultanpuri police outpost, Rashid alleged. There too, the two men were taken to a tiny room and interrogated. The police asked Rashid about the whereabouts of some Kashmiris, and where he was hiding them. He replied to their questions in the negative.
Rashid said he was then taken to another room in the quarters of a constable, and questioned by a policeman the rank of a circle officer. The officer threatened to tear Rashid’s beard and thrash him if he didn’t answer questions to his satisfaction, the journalist alleged.
“Since I didn’t have my phone, I could not note down the long list of expletives used against me,” Rashid said. “He left after some time and I was kept in the room till around 8.30 pm. I was then called to the office of the Circle Officer of Hazratganj who questioned me for a few more minutes.” The circle officer asked him the same questions as before, Rashid said.
The journalist said the officer refused to believe him when told that he did not approve of the violence during the protests. “He also lectured me on the ‘hypocrisy’ of Leftist ideology and heavily criticised China and its clampdown on citizens,” Rashid said.
However, by this time, the information of the two journalists’ detention had reached Chief Minister Adityanath’s Office, Rashid said. “The same cops who abused and intimidated me earlier now apologised to me and tried to explain that I was picked up due to a confusion,” Rashid said. “The police then let me off.”
There were violent clashes between protestors and police over the Citizenship Amendment Act, in Lucknow and many other cities of Uttar Pradesh on Friday. There were incidents of police firing as well as stone-pelting by protestors. At least 11 protestors died in the state on Friday.
The contentious law grants citizenship to persecuted Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, provided they have resided in India for six years. The cut-off date is December 31, 2014. It excludes Muslims from the three neighbouring countries from applying for Indian citizenship. Parliament had passed the legislation on December 11.