Azamgarh: Minor among 19 arrested for sedition, cops say he is rioter

Police alleged that the accused raised anti-national slogans and indulged in rioting during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) at Jauhar Ali park under Bilariyaganj police station.

A 16-year-old boy, who works as a cleaner in a dhaba, is among 19 people who have been arrested by Azamgarh police under sedition charges and other sections of the Indian Penal Code. The case was registered on Wednesday.

Police alleged that the accused raised anti-national slogans and indulged in rioting during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) at Jauhar Ali park under Bilariyaganj police station here. A woman, Munni Bano, has also been named in the FIR.

The family of the boy claimed that his date of birth is March 1, 2004. His 26-year-old brother, a daily wager, alleged, “We told the policemen that he is not 18. They did not listen to us and said that he is a rioter and will go to jail…He works as a cleaner at a dhaba and was on his way to work when he was picked up by police around 6.30 am on Wednesday.”

The family showed The Indian Express a “copy of family register” in which the boy’s age is shown six years in 2010. The document was issued by the Sagdi tehsil administration on November 29, 2010. The family said that they don’t have other documents of the boy and that he had “quit school long time ago due to financial issues”.

Asked if the family has visited the boy in jail, his brother said, “No, we haven’t. Police told us that we can’t meet him yet. We will try again tomorrow (Friday). We don’t have his birth certificate. We are uneducated and poor and keeping documents is not a priority for us. We did not see this day coming.” His 58-year-old father is also a daily wager.

Station Officer of Bilariyaganj Manoj Kumar Singh said the court will decide whether the boy is minor. “For us, he is a rioter. He was arrested from the spot and was sent to jail on Wednesday. It is up to the court to decide whether he is a minor or an adult,” Singh told The Indian Express on Thursday.

Among the 19 arrested people is also Rashtriya Ulema Council (RUC) general secretary Tahir Madni (65). RUC spokesperson Talha Rashadi said Madni (65) was called by police and administration to request women to call off the protest. “He was trying to convince the women to call off the protest. Then he was arrested. He is old and has several health issues. He has been arrested under sedition charge for helping police and administration,” said Rashadi. Bilariyaganj SO Singh said, “Madni is one of the conspirators. Earlier too, he had distributed pamphlets against the CAA and NRC. He is one of the people who were part of the conspiracy to hold protests without permission.”

Protesters, including a number of women, have alleged that on Wednesday around 4.30 am, police pelted them with stones and also lathi-charged them at Jauhar Ali park in Kasimganj area.

Police have denied the lathi-charge allegation but admitted that they tear-gassed protesters. Police have claimed that the protesters pelted stones at them.

“They were raising slogans against the government and nation. They were saying they will get azadi anyhow. They were making hateful announcements against Hinduism. They were abusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath,” said a statement issued by the district police on Wednesday evening.

An FIR was lodged at Bilariyaganj police station on Wednesday under various sections 124-A (sedition), 147 (rioting), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 504 (insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 307 (attempt to murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), and other sections of IPC, and under sections of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act and CLA Act. A total of 35 people were named in the FIR along with hundreds of unidentified people. The boy is named in the FIR and has been charged with the IPC sections.

Meanwhile, there was heavy police deployment at Jauhar Ali park on Thursday noon and most shops are shut in the area. The park is filled with water. Protesters had alleged that police had filled the park with water to “stop them from holding a peaceful protest”. Most locals The Indian Express spoke to said that entire neighbourhood is living in fear of police. “We are scared because the police have named so many people and can pick up anyone. They have invoked such serious charges against the protesters. The protest was peaceful. Do we not have the right to protest the government’s decisions? They picked up people after asking them their name,” alleged a shopkeeper (31) in the area who refused to divulge his name.

At the park, Additional SP (Rural), Narendra Pratap Singh, said the situation on Thursday is normal. “There is no issue today. We are holding talks with people. We will not allow a protest to be held here keeping in mind the violence,” said Singh.

Asked about the water filled in the park, the ASP says, “It must be due to some pipe leak or something else.”

Woman hit by stone regains consciousness Sarwari Bano (65) – who had to undergo a surgery Wednesday after she was hit by a stone at the protest site – has regained consciousness at National Super Speciality Hospital and Trauma Centre, a private hospital in Azamgarh.

“She is stable now. She has a clot on her brain because of the injury to her head and hence, we had to operate on her. The operation went well and she might be discharged soon,” says Dr Mohammad Arif at the nursing home.

Bano’s son Bilal (27), who is an electrician, alleges that his mother was injured due to stone pelting by police. “We live in a rented house right next to the park. After chaos, she went out to see what was happening. Policemen were throwing stones inside the park and she got hit,” said Bilal.

Source: The Indian Express

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