A senior police officer from the sensitive town of Meerut in west Uttar Pradesh was filmed making extremely communal statements in a Muslim locality last Friday, when police personnel were dealing with violent protests that had broken out in the city after Friday prayers on over the new citizenship law.
In a mobile phone video accessed by NDTV, Akhilesh Narayan Singh, who serves as Superintendent of Police(City) of Meerut, virtually the second in command in the district, can be seen walking in a narrow lane wearing riot gear. Some other policemen, also in riot gear, are seen walking with him.
Mr Singh stops at a place where a few Muslim men wearing skull caps are standing. “Where will you go? I will set this lane right now that you have given me this chance. (Kahan jaoge? Is gali ko main theek karoonga),” the officer tells two men standing standing nearby, in the video which is a little less than two minutes.
“We were just offering our Namaz,” one of them replies. “That’s fine. But these black and blue badges you people are wearing, tell them to go to Pakistan. (Nahin woh to theek hai jo kaali patti aur neeli patti baandh rahe ho unko keh do Pakistan chale jaayein),” Mr Singh can be seen telling the men.
He continues his rant: “Desh main agar nahin rehne ka man hai to chale jao bhaiya. Aaoge yahan aur haoge kahin aur ka. (If you do not want to live here then go away. You come here but you sing praises about somewhere else?),” the police officer says.
The three Muslim men, surrounded by a posse of policemen, only mutter this: “You are right”.
In the video, Mr Singh and the other policemen then proceed to move ahead but the seemingly infuriated officer returns to the same men at least thrice, and ends by saying, “I will throw every man from every house in jail. (Ek ek ghar ke ek ek aadmi ko jail main bhar doonga main).”
He then signs off by saying, “I will destroy everyone.”
It is not clear what circumstances led to the communal rant by the officer. The Indian Express quoted him as saying, “The context is that anti-social elements were making pro Pakistan statements. We had come here to see who all were making pro-Pakistan statements.”
Meerut Police also says they faced extreme stone-throwing and violence from protestors last Friday. With six deaths, the number of people who have died in the violence during the citizenship law protests in this western UP town is the highest for any single place across the state. While most of the dead have gunshot injuries, Meerut Police has not owned up to firing and have released videos from a different location showing masked protestors firing from illegal weapons at cops.
“There were anti-India slogans being raised. Some people were distributing objectionable pamphlets. He went there and said, ‘You can go wherever you want but don’t cause destruction’,” said Prashant Kumar, Additional Director General of Police of Meerut zone.’
The senior police officer added, the situation was sensitive on December 20. “In normal circumstances, the choice of words could have been better . But our officers showed restraint and did not misbehave with everyone. Those who are running the video now are trying to vitiate the atmosphere,” Mr Kumar said.
This is not the only video showing communal abuse used allegedly by UP Police last week. A two minute 30 second video from Kanpur’s Babu Purwa, that also saw heavy violence last Friday, also shows constables using extremely abusive and communal language as they try to enter a lane from where stones are being thrown at them.
“We will not let you stay in India,” a voice in the video can be heard saying as he lets loose a volley of communal abuses at a mob about 200 metres away.
Last evening, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath justified his government’s crackdown on agitations against the Citizenship Amendment Act, saying that the action has “shocked” every protester into silence.
Uttar Pradesh Police said they have identified 498 people – with as many as 148 from Meerut alone – who will be asked to pay up for losses incurred. State officials had earlier said that steps to attach the properties of “vandals” have already been initiated in some districts, including Rampur. On Thursday, police officers confirmed that as many as 1,113 people have been arrested from places across the state in connection with the anti-CAA protests.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act for the first time makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries to get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution.