Protests over Prophet remark rock country; over 100 arrested in UP
Protests were held after Friday prayers in several parts of the country, including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, over inflammatory speeches made by now-removed BJP functionaries against Prophet Mohammad.
In Uttar Pradesh, where over 100 people are arrested, the protests turned violent.
Protestors pelted stones at policemen in Prayagraj and Saharanpur and protests broke out after Friday prayers in at least four other cities in Uttar Pradesh over a BJP leader’s recent remarks on Prophet Mohammad.
Police have arrested over 100 people from six districts of the state.
In Prayagraj, some motorcycles and carts were set on fire and an attempt was made to set ablaze a police vehicle. Police used tear gas and lathis to disperse mobs and peace was later restored, they said, adding that one policeman was hurt in the region.
“As many as 109 protesting miscreants were arrested from six districts of the state till 7.30 pm on Friday,” Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said.
He said 38 protesters were arrested from Saharanpur, 15 from Prayagraj, 24 from Hathras, seven from Moradabad, two from Firozabad and 23 people from Ambedkar Nagar.
There was slogan-shouting against the now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma over her remarks during a TV debate, also triggering outrage in several Islamic nations.
In Saharanpur, protesters demanded a death sentence for her.
There were also protests in Bijnor, Moradabad, Rampur and Lucknow over the controversial remarks. Sloganeering took place in Lucknow.
According to local people, stone pelting continued for over 15 minutes in Prayagraj. They said some of the miscreants pelted stones at the police personnel deployed on the main road, as the situation escalated when more people joined the stone pelters.
Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi said, “Minor force was used to stop some people involved in the violence. The situation in Prayagraj is now peaceful. I would like to appeal to people to use democratic ways of protest without resorting to violence.”
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradeshs Director General of Police (DGP) D S Chauhan said no life has been lost because of the proper arrangements made by the state police.
“Because of our preparedness, no life has been lost. We will take strict action against those found involved in the violence,” he said.
Additional Director General (ADG), Parayagraj Zone, Prem Prakash said a constable of Rapid Action Force (RAF) was injured during stone pelting in the region.
Additional police force and teams of RAF were rushed to the spot. The police also fired tear gas shells and used force to stop the miscreants, he said.
In Saharanpur, people holding placards raised slogans against Nupur Sharma. Some of them also turned violent after the security personnel tried to stop them. This led to brief stone pelting in the Nehru market area of the city. Some madrasa students also raised slogans in the Deoband area.
The protestors also raised slogans demanding capital punishment for the BJP leader.
District Magistrate Akhilesh Singh told PTI, “Police had to retort to force when the protesters refused to hear the appeals of peace by police personnel. The protestors are being identified using CCTV footage for further action.”
Four people, including the district president of AIMIM, were arrested in Bijnor as a precautionary measure.
Superintendent of Police Dharamveer Singh said AIMIM district chief Abdullah along with one Iftekhar, Mahroof and Akil were arrested for inciting communal hatred.
According to police, the accused called a gathering near Purani Musfi area in Bijnor. The arrests were made on the complaint of people from the Muslim community, the SP said.
People demanded action against the BJP leader and waved banners with “Arrest Nupur Sharma” written on them in Rampur and Moradabad.
In Kanpur, which was the epicentre of communal violence last week, the Friday prayers were held in a peaceful manner with no reports of any untoward incident. The prayers were held in a watertight security vigil by police personnel.
A heavy police force was deployed in the area with senior police and administrative officials present on the spot.
This comes following clashes last week in Kanpur over the remarks on the Prophet at a TV debate some days earlier. A high alert was issued across the state after that, and a heavy police force was deployed to ensure that violence does not occur again.
Protests across Punjab, Navi Mumbai
In Punjab, Ludhiana’s Shahi Imam said after a protest call by the Ludhiana Jama Masjid, protests were held across the state demanding the arrest of the suspended BJP leaders.
In Navi Mumbai, women took out a rally against the controversial remarks, while a large number of people carried out a protest march in Solapur.
The old city of Hyderabad also witnessed massive protests in several areas, including outside Mecca Masjid. Police and CRPF were deployed in the area. Agitations were also held in Rajasthan’s Tonk and Sawai Madhopur cities.
Violent clashes had erupted a week ago in Kanpur after two groups protested over controversial speeches made by Sharma at a television debate. The row over the alleged derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammad escalated on Sunday with protests from countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Iran, prompting the BJP to take action against its functionaries and assert that it respects all religions.
(With Agency inputs)