A journalist with The Hindu newspaper was picked up by the Lucknow police from a city restaurant, detained for over two hours at a police station and then a police post, and finally released after harrowing moments where he was accused of conspiracy in the Lucknow violence against the Citizenship Amendment Act on Thursday that saw one person killed.
Omar Rashid is the Uttar Pradesh correspondent for The Hindu newspaper, and says he was busy with filing his story at a local restaurant along with a friend when the police arrived. "I was using someone's WiFi in the hotel. Suddenly about four to five people in plain clothes came and they started interrogating my friend. They asked him to identify himself. The asked me to identify myself. They then put him in a jeep and ask me to also come along. I identified myself as a journalist and told them who I am. They insisted I went with them," Omar Rashid said in an interview to NDTV.
"They locked us up in a room. They took away all my belongings including my phone. They beat up my friend brutally. They questioned him and linked him to the violence. They also linked me to the violence saying I am a key conspirator in the violence. They were asking me questions about certain Kashmiris coming here and participating in the violence. Each time I was trying to ask them something they asked me to shut up. They used expletives and said you can put your journalism elsewhere, we don't care about it. They told me they had proof against me. The put us in a jeep again and took us to an outpost. Another police officer used a lot of communal slurs against me and said he would tear my beard," he added.
Omar Rashid was let off after calls were made to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister's Office and to the Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police OP Singh. While the journalist was in detention, NDTV spoke with Mr Singh who promised to look into the matter. The state police chief called back to say that Mr Rashid has been released.
Among those picked up by the Lucknow Police for the Thursday violence include prominent activists like lawyer Mohd Shoaib and former IPS officer and activist SR Darapuri. It is not clear if they have been arrested. "The police first failed to control the violence and now to cover their faults they are going after activists who wanted to protest peacefully. This is not right. The police has to tell us where these people are," said Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay award winner and human rights activist.
There have been massive protests across the country, including many cities in Uttar Pradesh, over the new Citizenship Act, which for the first time makes religion the test of citizenship in India. The government says it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries to get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution. Critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principals of the constitution.