In a shocking incident in Bilaraiyaganj in Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, police have allegedly lathi-charged a group of women protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The incident took place at about 4AM on Wednesday morning.
“My 80-year-old grandmother is missing. These was chaos after the lathi charge and she is yet to come home,” says Mohamed Ussaid. His grandma Tahira and 60-year-old mother Rukaiyah were at the Shaheen Bagh style protest led by women of Bilariyaganj.
“The women had been angry for days and decided to start their sit-in protest yesterday at 11 AM at the Maulana Mohammed Ali Johar park,” says Ussaid. “The District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police visited the site, made some assurances and requested the women to leave. But the women said that they would not leave till Shaheen Bagh was vacated,” he says. “But later that night over 100 policemen came to the spot and started lathi-charging women. That’s when the men lost their cool as we will not tolerate any violence against our women,” he says. Ussaid says, “We started pelting stones and in turn the police also started throwing back the stones at us. They also fired rubber bullets and tear gas shells.”
Another local student Mohammed Waqas said, “I was present there with my mother and sister. The protest was peaceful and there was no need for any violent crackdown. But when the police began lathi-charging the women, things got out of control. I sustained two blows myself and the police had grabbed me, but when the stone pelting began, I was able to free myself and escaped.” He adds, “There were women police personnel, but they stood on the sidelines and watched even as male officers beat up women.” Waqas says that his mother was injured in the ensuing stampede but not seriously.
But police categorically deny lathi-charging women. “There was no lathi-charge, so no question of firing tear gas shells or rubber bullets even arises. In fact, we had ensured that the women got permission to hold their protest. We issued them the written permission for 8 hours at the District Head Quarters. Then at the end of the day we requested them to vacate the premises as it was causing an obstruction on the road, but they refused to leave, ” says Narendra Pratap Singh, Additional SP (Rural) of Azamgarh. “There were hardly 50-60 women protesters, the rest were men. While the women remained in the park, the men came out on the street. We have detained some 10-12 of them and they will be produced in court,” adds Singh.
An officer at the Bilaraiyaganj police station also told us, “There was no lathi-charge. We just showed them the lathis to make them run away so that they would vacate the spot.”