A septuagenarian timber trader in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar town has accused policemen of vandalising his house, looting cash and jewellery at gunpoint and assaulting him and his family members, The Telegraph reported on Thursday. The alleged incident took place on Friday at 11 pm, hours after Haji Hamid Hasan and his son took part in a protest against the amended citizenship law.
Hasan said nearly 30 policemen, many in civilian clothes, broke into his two-storey house and vandalised it. “I cried and begged for mercy but they were very brutal,” he told the daily, adding that he was assaulted with a rifle butt and then beaten with sticks. “They told me Muslims have only two places – Pakistan or Kabristan.”
The rampage continued for 30-40 minutes, said Hasan. “After destroying everything, they looted at gunpoint jewellery and cash of Rs 5 lakh kept in the almirah,” he added. His granddaughters are supposed to get married in February.
The policemen also beat up Hasan’s son Mohammad Shahid and took him away, alleged the timber trader. Shahid has been charged with rioting. “I met him and he said the cops asked him to hold a gun and then took his photo,” Hasan said.
“Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is taking revenge and his policemen are targeting Muslims for participating in the protests,” said Hasan. “India is no longer the same country where I was born. My parents had rejected Jinnah’s Pakistan and embraced Gandhi’s India but this government has made us pariahs.” On December 19, Chief Minister Adityanath had vowed to “take revenge” against the protestors.
Violence erupted in Muzaffarnagar and 12 other districts on Friday afternoon with around 10 two-wheelers and several cars being set ablaze along with damage done to public property. At least 30 were reportedly injured, of which 12 were police personnel.
“We agree that burning buses is wrong, but why hurt us?” asked Hasan, according to News18. “What did I do?”
However, senior police officers denied the allegations. “The police are only going to the houses of rioters who had taken part in the violence,” an unidentified sub-inspector at Muzaffarnagar police station told The Telegraph.
Hasan and his family live in the Muslim-majority neighbourhood of Sarwat. Local residents in Muzaffarnagar allege that upwardly mobile Muslim families have been made the target of a police crackdown. Last week, around 60 shops in Meenakshi Chowk and Kachchi Sadak localities in Muzaffarnagar city were sealed. Meenakshi Chowk is the hub of Muslim businessmen in Muzaffarnagar.
Another 74-year-old wholesale footwear trader has made similar allegations against the police. “They came after midnight,” Haji Anwaar Ilahi told News18. “There was a box with Rs 3.25 lakh in cash. They smashed it open and took the cash. We had been saving for my granddaughter’s wedding in March. They took all the jewellery in the house. We are ruined.”
Additional District Magistrate Amit Singh, however, told News18 that he was looking into complaints of alleged police brutality in the Khalapar and Sarwat areas.
Although the administration claimed that only people seen in videos were taken into custody, Ilahi, who suffers from polio in his right foot, was also arrested on Friday night. “They kept in the lock-up for two days,” he said. “They didn’t even tell me where they were taking me. My family was not allowed to meet me while I was in the lock-up.”
On Wednesday, the Uttar Pradesh Police put out a series of reward posters and videos to identify those allegedly involved in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act last week.
Another house in Serawat locality was also attacked. “Cops along with some people in mufti barged into my house and vandalised everything on Friday evening,” said Haji Akbar. “They were armed with lathis and rods and hurled abuses at women. When I went to the police station to lodge a complaint, they threatened to implicate me in rioting cases. They abused and pushed me when I requested them to help me meet senior police officials.”
The farmhouse of former Congress MP Saiduzzaman Saeed was also vandalised and two cars gutted. Saeed’s son Salman accused the police and local Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteers of violence. “Their ulterior motive was to create a communal riot again to divide people,” Salman told The Telegraph.
Social worker Rehan Khan agreed with Salman. He said people were holding a peaceful protest on Friday afternoon when some RSS supporters pelted stones at them. Some youths threw stones in retaliation and then the police started firing tear gas shells and bullets. “The systematic attack is targeted at Muslims who protested against the new law and the brutalisation is aimed at chilling Muslims into silence and scare them so that they don’t speak out for their rights,” Khan said.
Protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens have engulfed India in the past two weeks. The protests saw peaceful marches as well as intense clashes between the police and the demonstrators. At least 17 people were killed in Uttar Pradesh, and 24 in the country, over the past two weeks during clashes between police and anti-Citizenship Act protestors. A media report said on Wednesday that the police in Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor had detained at least five minors last week, and tortured them for 48 hours.