CAA/NRC: Uttar Pradesh – Timeline of Clashes, Dec 21-25 2019

January 6, 2020

Below is a timeline of the actions taken by the Uttar Pradesh police and administration between Friday (December 20) and Wednesday (December 25), drawn from two main Hindi language dailies in the region.


At least six residents of the Mehmood Khan Sarai and Mandi Kishandas Sarai chawls in western Uttar Pradesh’s Sambhal town did not come back home on 20 December 2019. The residents were Marguf, a 25-year-old; Sarim. A 23-year-old; Salman, a 19-year-old; and three minors.

Their families later found that the police had arrested their kin in the aftermath of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. On 19 and 20 December, the police used brute force against protestors—tear gas, lathes and even open firing.

Kaushal Shroff reports. Source: Caravan


Saturday A.M.:

The toll from Thursday and Friday begins to emerge: 11 dead, and 3,305 arrests so far. Clashes are reported from Sultanpur, Sambhal, Hathras and Bulandshahr, while in Amroha and Hapur, police say that बल प्रयोग करना पड़ा (“they had to use force”).

Following the violence, internet services are shut down in 20 districts across the state.

Saturday P.M.:

Twenty-two protesters have been arrested in Gorakhpur after Friday’s violence. Police have identified 50 accused in total. Though calm prevails on the day, words such as डर का माहौल and दहशत (“atmosphere of fear and panic”) recur in multiple accounts and interviews.

Lucknow police have, so far, jailed 70 and arrested 450 people, including पश्चिम बंगाल के छह नागरिक (“six citizens of West Bengal”), in connection with Thursday’s protests. There is also confirmation that the police crossfire has claimed the life of 25-year-old autorickshaw driver Mohammad Vakil, whose family is informed by an eyewitness that he was shot by a police sub-inspector.

The internet shutdown imposed on Thursday night till Saturday noon is extended till Monday noon. Internet services are briefly revived in some areas on Saturday afternoon, but soon shut back down. All told, 27 districts have now faced internet disruptions since Thursday.

Section 144 is imposed across the state until January 31, which is forty-one days away.

Muslim organizations stage a demonstration in Rampur without permission and allegedly set fire to police vehicles and pelt stones at the police. A young man is killed in retaliatory firing.

Violence erupts in Kanpur on Saturday afternoon. Twelve policemen are injured, prompting police to lathi-charge and tear-gas crowds, which actions they claim were provoked by crowds setting a police post on fire and stone-pelting from rooftops. They claim, further, that after Friday’s incidents, protesters had drums of water stationed nearby to mitigate the effects of tear gas. The police also appear to have cut off electricity within a one-kilometre radius at some point during the Saturday afternoon clashes. Skirmishes continue late into the night; six hours of face-offs within firing range.

Meanwhile, the toll from Friday is two deaths and 13 bullet injuries, in violence described on both sides as पूर्व नियोजित (“pre-planned”). Police confirm that 39 people have been detained. Eyewitnesses, on the condition of anonymity, say that police broke into houses, shops and standing vehicles while hunting for the accused.

There is a suggestion from some quarters, for the first time, that the police may have been underprepared for the demonstrations after Friday prayers in Kanpur. When journalists in Kanpur knew that there would be demonstrations, asks one report, how did the police not know this?

Kanpur’s Additional Director General of Police, speaking of the protesters, claims that हिंसा को देख कर लगता है कि ये सुनियोजित है (“the violence appears to have been well-planned out”) and धार्मिक कार्यक्रम में इसकी छूट देते हैं (“their religious programs permit this”).


Sunday A.M.:

Police HQ in Lucknow quotes a figure of 288 police personnel injured, 62 of them by bullet injuries, across 21 districts in the state.

Uttar Pradesh’s Deputy Chief Minister suggests the involvement of the Popular Front of India (PFI) in the Lucknow protests.

District Magistrate offices in Lucknow commence preparation of legal proceedings against identified persons in areas where violent demonstrations took place to compensate for damage to public property.

Seven arrests are made after violence in Farrukhabad, to add to police cases against 59 identified persons. Police in Bahraich name around 100 accused and detain 38 people. Ghaziabad Police have identified 300 accused based on video and CCTV footage.

Internet services have been restored in Aligarh after a week long blackout.

The statewide death toll since Thursday is now set at 16.

Sunday P.M.:

More reports pour in of violence at demonstrations across Uttar Pradesh on Saturday. There is confirmation of one dead and 15, including police personnel, injured in Rampur; another body has been recovered in Meerut, and two more in Firozabad, taking the death toll to 17. There is word, also, of internet and SMS blackouts in 15 districts until Monday.

Varanasi’s Senior Superintendent of Police reports that 73 out of 91 named accused have been arrested. This includes the District President and the Youth Committee District President of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM). Police are processing identification of a further 6,000 unknown people through video and CCTV footage.

A short video surfaces of a policeman firing at a crossing in Kanpur during Saturday’s clashes. Kanpur Police deny there was any firing from their end. They say they have arrested 12 and detained 15 people in connection with Saturday’s violence.

The Municipal Council in Shamli distributes 500 leaflets urging people to ignore rumours and not to get confused by misinformation about the Citizenship Amendment Act.

In Deoband, thousands sit on hunger strike led by the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind and former Deoband MLA Mawia Ali.

UP Police have also arrested 103 people, and commenced inquiries against 13,101 objectionable posts flagged while monitoring social media.

Director General of Police in Lucknow, taking stock of the last 72 hours, says that the involvement of NGOs and बाहरी तत्व (“outside elements”) cannot be ruled out. He notes that एकाध घटनाओं को छोड़कर प्रदेश में स्थिति सामान्य है (“aside from odd incidents, the situation is normal”).


Monday A.M.:

Friday’s violence in Muzaffarnagar has now prompted 25 more arrests, taking the total to 73. Five more accused of stone-pelting have been jailed in Gorakhpur, taking the total there to 28 people, while criminal cases filed against unknown persons in Gorakhpur now implicate 1,200 people.

UP Police are mobilizing search efforts by posting pictures of people involved in the violence on WhatsApp groups of their digital team volunteers. They are also employing an image search through the Trinetra mobile app, which contains records and photographs of professional criminals. These efforts are expected to gather momentum after the full restoration of internet services, which will ease the process of identifying names and addresses.

Bijnor police announce rewards of ₹25,000 on each of three accused in Friday’s violence.

Meanwhile, there have been 15 more arrests and 60 more positive IDs by the police following a fourth straight day of violence in Lucknow on Sunday. Police interrogation has yielded the names and addresses of other suspects, says a Senior Superintendent of Police in Lucknow.

Monday P.M.:

Muzaffarnagar remains under internet blackout but some shops reopen for business. The District Magistrate’s office announces that 67 shops and hotels will be sealed ताकि दुकान के मालिक हमसे संपर्क करें और हमसे जानकारी साझा करें (“so that their owners contact us and share information with us”).

Police in Saharanpur continue to work on video footage to identify 1,600 unknown persons. Unannounced checks at bus and railway stations have been initiated, to check the luggage of संदिग्ध लोग (“suspicious people”).

Lucknow Police double down on the Deputy Chief Minister’s claim of the PFI’s involvement. They parade three PFI functionaries at a press conference in Lucknow, and announce the arrest of two others in Shamli.

Evening reports say 5,558 people have now been detained statewide. Though internet blackouts persist in 15 districts, 120 arrests have now been made in connection with objectionable social media posts. Action has been taken against 17,661 posts, including reporting 9,076 profiles on Facebook, 7,513 on Twitter and 172 on YouTube.

Police HQ confirms police casualty numbers broadly consistent with Sunday: 288 policemen injured, 61 by firearm injuries. HQ is also at pains to emphasize that over 700 bore cartridges have been recovered from various protest locations, suggesting that protesters had violent intent.

Meerut City Police say they have issued ‘Wanted’ posters against दंगाई (“hooligans”) in connection with last week’s violence. Eleven arrests and 125 positive IDs have been made through video and CCTV footage. However, reports suggest that even the arrest of positively identified persons remains a बड़ी चुनौती (“big challenge”) for the police. Twenty cases have been filed so far, some at the instigation of hospital employees and common people. There is a suggestion also that the police consider it impractical to go out in search of the accused at the moment, but that they will do so once the situation calms down.


Tuesday A.M.:

Gorakhpur follows Meerut’s lead and releases posters announcing rewards for information of the accused. The city is calm but there remains a sense of अघोषित कर्फ्यू (“undeclared curfew”).

Bijnor Police acknowledge 131 arrests in the district since Friday, and that 250 identified persons have been booked under various criminal provisions. Bijnor’s Superintendent of Police confirms that Mohammad Suleman, a 20-year-old who they claim opened fire on a Special Operations Group policeman during a skirmish in the Nehtaur area on Friday, was shot and killed in “self-defence”. The 9mm bullet recovered from Suleman’s body was a ballistics match with the policeman’s service pistol.

This appears, by all accounts, to be the UP Police’s first official admission of a kill from Friday’s events.

Tuesday P.M.:

A banner headline emerges that “six Bangladeshis” have been caught and may have been involved in the weekend’s violence in Kanpur. There is further suggestion of pinning blame on the PFI and AIMIM, while police investigations allegedly reveal that किसी दूसरे शहर के लोग (“people from some other city”) were responsible for instigating violence.

Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind organize another protest in Deoband, after which 313 people offer themselves for symbolic arrest.

The Lucknow administration initiates legal proceedings against 82 individuals for recovering compensation for damage to public property. An Additional District Magistrate announces that this is in line with High Court guidelines issued in a 2009 case. Persons issued notice are to appear in court in a week and the process (which can include attachment of property) is to be completed in month, after which the administration नियमानुसार वसूली करेगा (“will execute recovery as per rules”).

Starting Monday night, Kanpur police – including through various functionaries at press conferences – release posters of the accused. These posters, bearing photographs of around 70 people have been put up in the city. A claim also emerges that police have started recording calls made from specific mobile numbers in the city on suspicion of inciting violence.

The statewide death toll is 18.


Wednesday A.M.:

Police intelligence reports a picture of preparation and revival of disturbances across neighbourhoods in Meerut, informed by the recovery of illegal firearms from several locations. Police have started scrutinizing the records of arms manufacturers and suppliers and plain clothes officers have been deployed to gather more information about arms suppliers.

Following the Lucknow administration, Rampur identifies 28 people for public property losses of approximately ₹1,486,000 in arson and stone pelting incidents on Saturday. Rampur’s Superintendent of Police says their list of suspects runs over 150 people, and that 33 arrests have been made so far.

Wednesday P.M.:

There is a suggestion that Friday’s violence in Gorakhpur could have been better managed if the police had, instead of falling prey to hearsay, simply followed the planned path of the demonstrators. They also appear to have ignored bricks stacked up on streets outside – which they claim were flung at them by demonstrators – despite there being no construction activities nearby. The police were in such a stupor that they have failed to even clear streets of bricks and abandoned footwear in the affected areas. One report explains their attitude as पुलिस मानो बंद आंखों से ही गश्त कर रही थी (“it was as if the police was patrolling with their eyes closed”).

It also emerges that, after repelling the crowds, the police went in active search of the demonstrators. A police team, led by a Joint Magistrate, entered houses and apprehended some of the accused. These accused were then beaten up in their neighbourhoods लोगों को सुरक्षा का एहसास और उपद्रवियों में डर पैदा करने के लिए (“to make common people feel safe and to create fear among the miscreants”).

Intelligence agencies, having investigated an anonymous tip on Saturday evening, now believe that the violence is being sponsored as पड़ोसी देश के मस्जिदों में चंदे जुटाए जा रहे हैं (“donations are being collected from mosques in neighbouring countries”).

Special Task Forces, Anti-Terrorism Squads and intelligence agencies are also pursuing leads against the Gorakhpur accused outside the state; the police claim that they may have retreated to relatives’ homes in Bihar and Nepal.

Internet services will be suspended from Thursday morning in Agra district, in view of violence in Firozabad after last week’s Friday prayers. It is intended to be a 36-hour shutdown, अगर कानून व्यवस्था की स्थिति सामान्य रहती है (“if the law and order situation remains normal”).

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