The Meerut Police have added the charge of sedition in the first information report filed in connection with the clashes during Citizenship Act protests on December 20, The Indian Express reported on Sunday. This came a day after a senior police officer was caught on camera telling protestors to “go to Pakistan”.
“With respect to the violence by the protesters in Meerut on December 20, several FIRs for alleged rioting have already been filed,” Meerut Senior Superintendent of Police Ajay Sahni told The Indian Express. “It has come to our notice that pro-Pak slogans were also raised in Lisari Gate. Keeping that in mind, the section 124 [sedition] of the IPC [Indian Penal Code] has been added in the existing FIR. The section has been added against unknown persons. The next step is to identify the alleged accused and take action accordingly.”
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 shot in the same area, Superintendent of Police 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.”
Singh has been defended by Additional Director General of Police Prashant Kumar as well as Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya.
“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,” Kumar had said on Saturday in Singh’s defence. Maurya, on the other hand, claimed that the remark was not directed at every Muslim but only those chanting pro-Pakistan slogans.
However, Union Minister for Minority Welfare Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi called for immediate action against the officer. “If it is true that he made that statement in the video, then it is condemnable,” he told ANI on Sunday. “Immediate action must be taken against him.”
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 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.