People pelted stones at police personnel in Prayagraj and Saharanpur and protests broke out after Friday prayers in at least four other cities in Uttar Pradesh over a non-suspended BJP leader's recent remarks on Prophet Mohammad. Police have arrested more than 130 people from six districts of the state. In Prayagraj, some motorcycles and carts were set on fire and an attempt was made to set ablaze a police vehicle. Police used tear gas and lathis to disperse mobs and peace was later restored, they said, adding that one policeman was hurt in the region. "As many as 136 protesting miscreants were arrested from six districts of the state till 9.45 pm on Friday," Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said. He said 45 protesters were arrested from Saharanpur, 37 from Prayagraj, 23 people from Ambedkar Nagar, 20 from Hathras, seven from Moradabad, and four from Firozabad district. There was slogan-shouting against the now-suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma over her remarks during a TV debate, which also triggered outrage in several Islamic nations.
In Saharanpur, protesters demanded the death sentence for her. There were also protests in Bijnor, Moradabad, Rampur and Lucknow over the controversial remarks. Sloganeering took place in Lucknow. According to the local people, stone pelting continued for over 15 minutes in Prayagraj. They said some of the miscreants pelted stones at the police personnel deployed on the main road and the situation escalated when more people joined the stone pelters. Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi said, "Minor force was used to stop some people involved in the violence. The situation in Prayagraj is now peaceful. I would like to appeal to people to use democratic ways of protest without resorting to violence." Uttar Pradesh's Director General of Police (DGP) D S Chauhan said no life has been lost because of the proper arrangements made by the state police. "Because of our preparedness, no life has been lost. We will take strict action against those found involved in the violence," he said. Additional Director General (ADG), Parayagraj Zone, Prem Prakash said a constable of Rapid Action Force (RAF) was injured during stone pelting in the region.
Additional police force and teams of RAF were rushed to the spot. The police also fired tear gas shells and used force to stop the miscreants, he said. Superintendent of Police Dharamveer Singh said AIMIM district chief Abdullah along with one Iftekhar, Mahroof and Akil were arrested for inciting communal hatred. According to the police, the accused called a gathering near Purani Musfi area in Bijnor. The arrests were made on the complaint of people from the Muslim community, the SP said. People demanded action against the BJP leader and waved banners with "Arrest Nupur Sharma" written on them in Rampur and Moradabad.
In Kanpur, which was the epicentre of communal violence last week, the Friday prayers were held in a peaceful manner with no reports of any untoward incident. The prayers were held under a watertight security vigil by police personnel. A heavy police force was deployed in the area with senior police and administrative officials present on the spot. This comes following clashes last week in Kanpur over the remarks on the Prophet at a TV debate some days earlier. A high alert was issued across the state after that, and a heavy police force was deployed to ensure that violence does not occur again.
(With PTI Inputs)