It’s midnight and a group of men is huddled around a bonfire in a bylane in Meerut’s Bhumiya ka Pul. Water in a plastic bottle keeps the men hydrated. Somebody brings tea. When the used paper cups land in the fire, the flames spike. Why are these men out in this January chill? “Apne bachchon ki hifazat ke liye (for our children’s safety).” They chorus. From whom? The police. They allege that the police have been picking up men arbitrarily from the locality since the December 20 clash between cops and anti-CAA protestors. The protests were dealt with a strong hand.
Of 20 people—all Muslims—who lost their lives in the violence, six were killed in Meerut. UP Police denied they fired at protestors, but admitted later that a person in Bijnor died by their bullet. The remaining, they say, died as they fired at each other. Families of most victims say the members fell to police firing. “It’s our people who have been shot dead. And yet it’s we who are living in fear of arrests. Ye kaisa nizam hai? (What system is this?),” asks one from the vigil by the bonfire.