Protests broke out outside the iconic Jama Masjid in Old Delhi on Friday (December 27) against the amended Citizenship law. A group of agitators also carried out a march towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence demanding Bhim Army chief Chandra Shekhar Aazad’s release but were stopped by the police.
The protesters outside Jama Masjid, many of whom gathered after offering Friday prayers at the mosque, raised slogans against the new legislation and the proposed countrywide implementation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
“Is desh ko NRC, NPR nahi chaiye. Is desh ko rozgaar chahiye. Is desh ko aman aur shanti chahiye (This country does not need NRC, NPR, this country needs jobs. This country needs peace and amity),” a protester said. The protesters, who were carrying placards that read “Save the Constitution, don’t divide India,” appealed to the people to remain non-violent.
Meanwhile, police held flag marches in some areas of northeast Delhi and heavy police force was deployed in parts of the city.
Outside the Uttar Pradesh Bhawan in the national capital, police detained around 357 protesters who tried to stage a demonstration against alleged police atrocities in the state following the agitation over the new legislation. However, they were later released.
“The protest was carried out in violation of prohibitory orders and the protesters didn’t have any permission. So they were asked not to carry out their protest. But since they didn’t follow the directions, 357 protesters (282 men and 75 women) were detained and taken to Mandir Marg and Connaught Place police stations. They were subsequently released,” police said.
The Jamia Coordination Committee, which comprises students from various political groups active on the campus, had called for a “gherao” of the UP Bhawan. As soon as some protesters arrived, they were detained and taken to the Mandir Marg police station.
Personnel from adjoining police districts were also deployed to ensure that no untoward incident occurs. Police said prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC have been in place. Barricades have also been put up, they said. The Delhi Police had also put up a banner asking people to refrain from staging demonstrations outside the Uttar Pardesh Bhawan as prohibitory orders are in place.
In view of the protests taking place in the national capital, entry and exit gates at Lok Kalyan Marg Metro station were closed on Friday.
Earlier in the day, the police stopped hundreds of people who were marching towards the prime minister’s residence to demand the release of Aazad, who was arrested for allegedly instigating protesters to indulge in violence in Daryaganj last Friday, and to protest the amended Citizenship Act.
Amid heavy security arrangement and drone surveillance, the protesters including Bhim Army members started from Dargah Shah-e-Mardan in Jor Bagh in the national capital and were stopped by police at a barricade en route the PM’s residence at Lok Kalyan Marg.
They participated in the march with their hands tied, saying they did it so that they could not be blamed for violence and arson during the protest. They raised slogans of ‘tanashahi nahi chalegi’ and carried posters of Babasheb Ambedkar and Aazad.
Friday prayers pass off peacefully in UP: Police
Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh police said Friday prayers in the state passed off peacefully amid tight security arrangements put in place after last week’s violence allegedly by anti-citizenship law protesters. “The entire state was peaceful,” UP Director General of Police OP Singh said. He said there was no report of any untoward incident from anywhere in the state.
The state was placed under a thick security cover with deployment of central paramilitary forces in sensitive areas. Internet services were suspended in many places to check rumour-mongering, officials said.
Drones were also used to keep a vigil, particularly in areas where violence had broken out last week after Friday prayers. Protesters had hurled stones at policemen and set vehicles on fire. Police used lathis, lobbed tear-gas and have admitted to opening fire in self-defence in some places. To a question, the DGP said the death toll in the clashes last week remained at 19.
Reports from Moradabad, Amroha and Hathras districts said the Friday namaz was offered at various mosques and the congregations dispersed peacefully. In state capital Lucknow, a heavy deployment of paramilitary force personnel was seen outside the historic Tiley Wali Masjid in the Old City area.
Patrolling had been intensified in sensitive areas across Uttar Pradesh ahead of the Friday prayers. Around 3,500 personnel of central paramilitary forces and 12,000 jawans of the UP Provincial Armed Constabulary were on the job to maintain peace, the police chief said.
As a precautionary measure, internet services which were resumed after nearly a week, were suspended again in over 20 of the 75 UP districts including Ghaziabad, Bulandshahr, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Agra.
Twin rallies in Mumbai
Mumbai witnessed two simultaneous protests on Friday, one in support of the new citizenship law and another opposing it.
Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis led the rally organised by ‘Sanvidan Sanman Manch’ at the historic August Kranti Maidan, in support of the amended legislation. Addressing the rally, he took a swipe at former ally Shiv Sena for its ‘silence’ on the issue.
Referring to the Sena, he said, “I am surprised our old friends are quiet. They used to say once that illegal Bangladeshis should be thrown out, but now they are quiet.” The BJP leader also slammed the Sena-led state government for denying permission for a march from August Kranti Maidan to Lokmanya Tilak’s statue at Girgaon beach.
“Congress, communists and other opposition parties are trying to create misunderstanding among Indian Muslims about the law and create unrest in the country for vote bank politics,” he alleged. “Pakistan did not fulfill the assurance given at the time of Partition that its minorities will be protected. Hence India has to look after them because they are our people,” said Fadanvis.
At the same time at south Mumbai’s Azad Maidan, students and social activists raised slogans against the contentious legislation.
“This is an authoritarian regime. It thinks they can do anything. It is this government’s responsibility to protect and not oppose the Constitution,” Nikita Pathak, a student, said. Another protester said this was a “faceless government”, adding the Act is aimed “not against just one community but against the whole country.”
In Kolkata, the Left Front and the Congress participated in a joint rally against the new law. The rally was led by state Congress president Somen Mitra and senior Left Front leaders.
(With inputs from agencies)