Activist Robin Verma, who was arrested last month during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Lucknow, on Tuesday told The Hindu that during interrogation the police had asked him why he was friends with Muslims. “You are a Hindu, why are you friends with Muslims?” the police reportedly asked.

The police had detained Verma along with The Hindu journalist Omar Rashid on December 20 while both were sitting at a restaurant. Rashid was freed a few hours later after report of his detention reached the chief minister’s office. He said the police beat Verma with a thick leather belt in front of him and slapped him several times.

The activist was released from the Lucknow district jail on Tuesday. He had been granted bail last week. He told the newspaper that the police physically tortured and insulted him in jail. Verma also alleged that the police threatened to push his wife and two-year-old daughter into prostitution.

“A [Muslim] student of mine had wished me on my birthday,” Verma said. “They saw the message and asked me why do you know him? Why do you have Muslim names on your phone list? Why are you friends with them? Why do you go with them?”

The activist alleged that he was first taken to the Hazratganj police station and beaten up. He was reportedly thrashed twice at the Sultanganj police outpost and once again back at the Hazratganj facility. “They kicked me, punched me, hit me with lathis, slapped me, beat me with a thick leather belt and also plucked out my hair,” he alleged. He said the police, who were in plainclothes, injured one of his fingers.

Verma also alleged that the police denied him a blanket, food and water during his detention at the Hazratganj station. They also allegedly abused him when he asked them to inform his family about his detention.

Verma was initially not named in the first information report filed at the Hazratganj police station, but was later booked on charges of rioting, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy and damage to public property. The activist rejected the charges. “I did nothing wrong,” he said. “If opposing a law is wrong, and if that law is unconstitutional and oppresses the poor people of the country, I was only opposing that.” Verma added that he was relieved to get bail, and reiterated his faith in the judiciary.

Citizenship Amendment Act protests

The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed in Parliament on December 11 and notified on January 10, 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 sparked widespread protests for excluding Muslims.

At least 26 people died during last month’s protests against the legislation – 19 in Uttar Pradesh, five in Assam and two in Karnataka. In Uttar Pradesh, the police were accused of committing atrocities, including entering people’s homes to destroy property, and detaining and torturing minors.