Union Minister for Minority Welfare Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Sunday called for immediate action against a senior Uttar Pradesh police officer if he indeed asked Muslims protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act to “go to Pakistan”, ANI reported. However, state Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya backed Meerut Superintendent of Police (City) Akhilesh Narayan Singh, claiming that the remark was not directed at every Muslim but only those chanting pro-Pakistan slogans.

“If it is true that he made that statement in the video, then it is condemnable,” Naqvi told ANI. “Immediate action must be taken against him.” Naqvi added that violence, whether by the police or by protestors, was unacceptable. The minister urged the police to take care to see ensure innocent people do not suffer. Naqvi said he was confident that the state government will take action if the police have committed atrocities.

At a protest in Meerut’s Lisadi Gate area on December 20, the police had accused protestors of pelting stones, while residents alleged that the police opened fire at peaceful protestors. Five people died during the demonstrations. Later, reports suggested that a sixth person, identified as 24-year-old Aleem, also died in the firing.

In a video video shot in the same area, 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 tells them: “Where will you go? I will set this lane right now that you have given me this chance.” It was reportedly a reference to four protestors being chased by the police.

One of the men Singh addressed then says they were offering 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.”

Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya told ANI: “The statement is right for those who are sloganeering against India and supporting Pakistan.”

At least 26 people have died in nationwide protests against the amended citizenship law and the proposed National Register of Citizens – 19 of them in Uttar Pradesh. The state police have been accused of using excessive force while dealing with demonstrators. Last week, HuffPost India reported that the police in Bijnor had detained at least five minors on December 20, and tortured them for 48 hours.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.

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