What really happened during the CAA protests at Muzaffarnagar? Ruptured knees, looted property tell tale of police excess

  • On Friday, protesters from across Muzaffarnagar assembled at Meenakshi Chowk to mark their objection to the Citizenship Amendment Act

  • Soon, the police started lathi-charging the crowd leading to the protesters running in different directions

  • The aftermath of the clash has seen tens of unrelated persons hauled off by the police, stores sealed and property destroyed.

Students living at Sadat Hostel in Muzaffarnagar were in for a rude shock when the police barged into their hostel premises late on Friday evening. Almost all the students staying at the hostel were arrested on alleged charges of rioting during the protest from earlier that day.

After Friday prayers on 20 December, protesters from across Muzaffarnagar had assembled at Meenakshi Chowk to mark their objection to the Citizenship Amendment Act. "It was a peaceful protest and the organisers were constantly in conversation with the authorities. At a little past 4 pm, people started dispersing after a few rounds of sloganeering. No one knew where the stones came from. That is when the situation went out of hand," says Asad Farooqui, a social worker from Muzaffarnagar. A few community leaders were roped in immediately by the police to figure out a way to de-escalate tensions, but they weren't successful.

Those at the rally say that the presence of Sanjeev Baliyan led to the further escalation of the stand-off. "He is seen as a polarising figure in Muzaffarnagar as he has from time-to-time made statements that are communal in nature. There was no reason for him to be there, when both the police and civil society members were trying to bring the situation under control," said a resident of Kalpara, who took an alternate path and could get away safely.

 What really happened during the CAA protests at Muzaffarnagar? Ruptured knees, looted property tell tale of police excess

Muzaffarnagar Police tries to keep the peace on Friday. Firstpost/Gulfam

The situation took an entirely different turn at this point.

The police started lathi-charging the crowd leading to the protesters running in different directions. Some stopped at different points and indulged in stone-pelting. The police alleged that miscreants also burnt police vehicles.

Among those who fled the scene, some made their way to Mahavir Chowk — where Sadat Hostel is situated. The hostel is a residence for students from under-privileged backgrounds, many with single parents, affiliated with non-profit educational society Anjuman Taraqqi E Taleem Sadat Bahra. Police authorities claim that members of its personnel entered Sadat Hostel because they suspected that protesters were hiding there.

"But the manner in which they entered wasn't like they were conducting an inquiry. Hundreds of them barged in, destroying property and bashing up whoever was in sight. I was at the hostel during Jumma prayers — all the students were here. The allegations that these students were at the protest are absolutely false," said Khurshid Haider, a poet from Muzaffarnagar.

The hostel caretaker, a 65-year-old maulana named Asad Raza Hussaini, was beaten up and dragged out. All the students who were staying at the hostel were also beaten up and taken away, along with the maulana. After pressure from various quarters, Hussaini was released. He was in custody for more than 24 hours, and wasn't produced in front of a magistrate. At present, Hussaini is bedridden, with multiple injuries to his limbs.

The boys from the hostel met with a similar fate. Ten of them were released on Sunday after close to 40 hours of detention.

Many of them were beaten up in custody — the most common injury being ruptured knee caps.

They are presently undergoing medical treatment. Ten more have been remanded to judicial custody. A madrassa stands alongside Sadat Hostel and its students are within the age group of 14 to 19 years of age. They pursue their studies by means of the donations made to the trust that operates the Madrassa. "None of them will be able to bear legal expenses," said Khurshid of the students who had been picked up by the police.

Rapid Action Force personnel at Muzaffarnagar. Firstpost/Gulfam

Rapid Action Force personnel at Muzaffarnagar. Firstpost/Gulfam

And this wasn't all.

As the altercation between the police and the protesters continued, some men — purportedly workers of the BJP and Hindu Rashtra Dal — vandalised and looted Muslim properties in different localities. These instances have been recorded in an FIR filed at Civil Lines Police Station — a copy of which has been reviewed by Firstpost. Nasser Khan's mobile gallery, which is an attached premises to a masjid on GT Road was one such establishment.

"At 3.30 pm on 20 December, I saw a group of 150 people, most of them workers of the BJP and Hindu Rashtra Dal — led by BJP ward member Amit Bobby — running towards my shop. I immediately stepped out, pulled down my shutter and tried to walk a little further away to avoid the attention of the mob. But they caught hold of me and started abusing me. I requested them to let me go but they beat me. After this, they threw open my shutter and looted everything inside, including mobile phone, laptops and cash," said Nasser.

"They didn't stop at that," he continued, "They also destroyed the furniture in my shop before leaving. I've suffered loses to the tune of Rs 10 lakh." Along with Nasser's shop, the adjoining shops and masjid were vandalised and set on fire. This has been captured on CCTV footage not only outside Nasser's mobile gallery, but in various Muslim localities in Muzaffarnagar. The property of ex-MP S Saiduzzaman was vandalised and this has been captured on CCTV cameras as well.

Although FIRs have been registered by different individuals identifying workers of the Sangh who allegedly indulged in vandalism, no one has been arrested as yet.

The Muzaffarnagar Police has registered multiple FIRs naming close to 151 individuals as the perpetrators of the violence that took place on 20 December. Among these, 51 have been arrested as of Monday and more continue to be arrested. The FIR also mentions that more than 3,000 have yet to be identified.

The aftermath of the clash between the Muzaffarnagar Police and protesters. Firstpost/Gulfam

The aftermath of the clash between the Muzaffarnagar Police and protesters. Firstpost/Gulfam

Noor Mohammad, a 26-year-old Kalapara resident from Kalpara was allegedly killed due to police firing that followed the protests. Mohammad was a daily-wage worker and is survived by his wife, and two children. He was first taken to the Government Hospital in Muzaffarnagar from where he was referred to the General Hospital in Meerut, where he breathed his last. Following this, a postmortem was conducted at Meerut itself.

The Muzaffarnagar Police refused to divulge details of the cause of death and maintained that protesters were not fired upon. Superintendent of Police (City) Satpal Antil told Firstpost that protesters opened fire and not police personnel. This has been the consistent viewpoint of the police in every city of Uttar Pradesh where protesters have been succumbed to bullet injuries.

Firstpost spoke to at least eight officers across Uttar Pradesh, including in Kanpur, Bijnor, Varanasi, Meerut, Rampur and Gorakhpur. Every police official was quoted as saying: "Protesters fired among themselves and killed each other."

Mohammad's family also said that the Muzaffarnagar Police didn't allow his kin to perform the last rites in Muzaffarnagar. On the insistence of the police, the family performed the janaza for Mohammad in Meerut.

In a video accessed by The Quint, the police is seen destroying CCTV cameras outside a masjid in Khana. Firstpost spoke to women residents in Muzaffarnagar who said that the police barged into their homes late on Friday evening, arrested any man they could find and vandalised property before they left. One of the families was on its way to a wedding (to be held on Saturday), when the police stopped the vehicle and took away the male members of the party. Journalists to whom Firstpost spoke said that mobile network is not functional in the Muslim areas of Muzaffarnagar. They have to travel outside of these localities to access mobile services.

More than 50 such shops have been sealed by the police in Muzaffarnagar. Firstpost/Gulfam

More than 50 such shops have been sealed by the police in Muzaffarnagar. Firstpost/Gulfam

The Muzaffarnagar Police has also been sealing commercial establishments in Meenakshi Chowk since 21 December. More than 50 such shops have been sealed. The District Administration has announced that some of these properties will be sold to compensate the losses caused to public property during the protests. The legal basis on which they intend to do this remains unclear as a court of law needs to establish the role of any individual in an incident of rioting or public nuisance.

Some of the shopkeepers who spoke to Firstpost said that many of them had closed down their shops due to the protests and weren't even there at the time, but their shops have been sealed regardless.

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Updated Date: Dec 24, 2019 11:13:22 IST