A senior police officer in Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut district has been filmed asking residents of a Muslim-dominated locality to “go to Pakistan” during protest against the amended Citizenship Act on December 20, The Indian Express reported on Saturday.
At a protest in Meerut’s Lisadi Gate area last Friday, the police had claimed that protestors began stone-pelting while residents claimed that the police opened fire at peaceful protestors. Five people died in the process. Later reports suggested that a sixth person, 24-year-old Aleem, also died in the firing.
The video was shot in the same area. Superintendent of Police (City) of Meerut Akhilesh Narayan Singh is seen walking in a narrow lane wearing riot gear. He then stops at a place where few Muslim men are seen standing and then says: “Where will you go? I will set this lane right now that you have given me this chance”. He was reportedly referring to the four protestors being chased by police.
One of the men standing there tells the police that they were offering their prayers. “That’s fine,” Singh tells them. “The ones tying black and yellow bands, tell them to go to Pakistan. You eat here but sing praises of another place...This lane is now familiar to me. And once I remember, I can even reach your grandmother.”
The police officer, surrounded by other personnel, also warned the men that if something happened then every man in the lane will be jailed. “If something happens, you guys will pay the price,” Singh is heard saying on record. “Every man from each house will be arrested.”
Singh justified his communal remarks by saying that “anti-social elements were making pro-Pakistan statements”. “We had come to the area to see who all were making pro-Pakistan statements,” he told the newspaper. “When we arrived with force, they had run away. We found out that there were 3-4 such people who wanted to create an issue. We had discussions with locals.”
Additional Director General of Police Prashant Kumar told ANI that stones were thrown at police and that people in the area were shouting anti-India slogans. “Situation was very very tense,” he claimed. “PFI [Popular Front of India] pamphlets were being distributed. This was despite all appeals, including by religious leaders.”
“If situation was normal then choice of words could have been better, but that day the situation was extremely volatile, our officers showed a lot of restraint, and there was no firing by the police,” he added.
Meerut has registered the highest number of deaths across Uttar Pradesh during clashes between police and protestors last week. At least 26 people have died in the protests – 19 of them in Uttar Pradesh. The district also saw the highest number of confiscation of properties from people as compensation for the damage to public and private property.
According to a report on December 23, 14 of these deaths in the state were because of firearm injuries. Earlier this week, the police admitted that one civilian in Bijnor was killed by a constable in “self defence”. The police have been accused of using excessive force to deal with the demonstrators. On Wednesday, HuffPost India reported that the police in Bijnor had detained at least five minors last week, and tortured them for 48 hours.
On Friday, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath had justified the police crackdown on protestors. He said the action has “shocked” every protestor into silence.