The Moradabad city administration in Uttar Pradesh has issued a show-cause notice to poet-turned-politician Imran Pratapgarhi to recover Rs 1.04 crore for the expenses incurred by the state police during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, The Indian Express reported on Sunday.

The police claimed “a large group of a particular section has been gathering for protests at Eidgah” since Pratapgarhi’s call for a demonstration there on February 7, violating prohibitory orders. The protests started on January 29, and have seen a large number of women participate.

The notice issued by Additional City Magistrate Rajesh Kumar said the amount was calculated on the basis of the daily cost of deploying security personnel at the protest site, Hindustan Times reported. “Keeping in mind the law and order situation, one extra platoon of RAF [Rapid Action Force] and another company-and-a-half section of PAC [Provincial Armed Constabulary] has been deployed, which costs Rs 13.42 lakh per day,” read the notice. “Therefore, the administration can recover 1.04 crore from you.”

Kumar said the day before the poet participated in the protest, he had been sent a notice under Section 111 of Code of Criminal Procedure magistrate – order against any person who is likely to commit breach of peace – “asking him to sign a bond [saying] that peace will be maintained”.

The poet, however, maintained that his visit to Moradabad had concluded peacefully, and he was not aware of any such order. “I had been in touch with the administration days before the protest,” he added. “I had been asked to not visit, and I complied. On February 7, I visited and spoke at the venue. Everything was peaceful. In fact, they [administration] thanked me for it. I only wonder at the level of targeting.”

Pratapgarhi, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Moradabad on a Congress ticket, was also asked to appear before the additional city magistrate on February 12. He allegedly defied the order.

The poet termed the notice a “witch hunt”, and claimed the Uttar Pradesh government does not want people to speak against officials. “The district administration is using different methods to scare protestors, but we will not be afraid,” Pratapgarhi said, adding that he would challenge the notice in court.

The police claimed the notice was preventive in nature, and did not reflect the actual amount to be recovered. “As per procedure, another order is issued if the individual is found flouting the notice,” said Superintendent of Police (Moradabad) Amit Kumar. “This is not the same as a recovery notice since no public property was damaged. This acts as a deterrent to prevent a person from possibly causing a law and order situation.” The police have reportedly issued such notices to at least 150 people to prevent a law-and-order problem.

The Adityanath government had issued notices to hundreds of people in December, seeking damages for destruction of public property during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. At least 295 people in the districts of Lucknow, Kanpur, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Sambhal, Rampur, Bijnor and Bulandshahr reportedly received the notices in connection with property damage worth at least Rs 1.9 crore. Last week, the Allahabad High Court stayed a recovery notice issued to a Kanpur resident.