The authorities in Mau district of Uttar Pradesh have issued notices to 26 persons, asking them to pay Rs 49 lakh for allegedly causing damage to public property during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019, The Indian Express reported on Sunday. The police have invoked the National Security Act against six of the accused.

The recovery notices were issued on the basis of a local news report, which claimed that 26 residents of the district resorted to vandalism during a demonstration against the citizenship law that is widely criticised for being discriminatory towards Muslims.

The police said that a group had gathered at a crossing under the Dakshintola police station limits to protest against the violence that broke out in Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia in 2019. The group had gone to submit a memorandum to the police in solidarity with the students after the chaos inside the university campus.

“A few minutes after a memorandum was submitted to a police officer, a youth allegedly pelted a bus coming from Azamgarh with a stone,” the police said, according to The Indian Express. “As the police tried to disperse the crowd, another group hurled petrol bombs at the police, fired in the air with country-made pistols, and vandalised shops and vehicles.”

A case was filed against 26 named and several unidentified people at the Dakshintola police station under various charges, including attempt to murder. The accused were identified through video and photographic evidence, the police said.

Later, the district administration formed a committee which pegged the losses at Rs 49.62 lakh. “After evaluating the damage, we have found properties worth over Rs 49.62 lakh were destroyed during the anti-CAA protest,” Mau District Magistrate Amit Singh Bansal told the newspaper. “We have now issued recovery certificates to 26 people asking them to pay in damages. Each person has to pay around Rs 1.90 lakh.”

Similar notices have also been issued in other parts of Uttar Pradesh under the Bharatiya Janata Party government. The Lucknow district administration has directed 57 people to pay Rs 1.5 crore, while 53 people in Muzaffarnagar were asked to cough up Rs 23.41 lakh. In Kanpur, the administration has sought Rs 2.83 as recovery for damages from 21 people, and 58 people in Sambhal had to pay Rs 19.31 lakh.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, 2019 provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. Across the country, protests broke out against the law, seen as an assault on secular values inscribed in the Constitution.

In Assam, and other states of the North East, it activated older anxieties – that communities defined as indigenous to the region would be swamped by Bengali-speaking migrants from Bangladesh.