- Citizenship law supporters denied permission to go on a march
- District officials said around 100 people assembled anyway
- District Collector slapped a man after junior colleagues manhandled
Violence broke out at a pro-citizenship law rally in Madhya Pradesh's Rajgarh district on Sunday after officials and local police clashed with Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) supporters who were trying to take out a march for which permission had been denied. In a widely-circulated video, District Collector Nidhi Nivedita is seen slapping a BJP worker after protesters manhandled two of her junior colleagues - Priya Verma and Shruti Agrwal - and a few police officers. At least three people were injured as police resorted to a lathi-charge to control the situation.
The District Collector later told news agency ANI that protesters had "torn the clothes and pulled the hair of officers deployed in the region". Officials said the entire incident had been caught on video and appropriate action would be taken against those involved.
"Permission was denied to hold a rally... still around 50 to 100 persons, violating Section 144, took out the march. When they were stopped by police and administration, those present started misbehaving... pulled one of our women officers by her hair and kicked her, besides trying to pull clothes of both women officers," Ms Nivedita said.
"Protestors tore the clothes and pulled the hair of officers deployed in the region. I was surprised at how little the law meant to them. They were kicking the sub-district magistrate (SDM) and assaulting the officials," she added, noting that local businesses had been asked to close for the day.
According to ANI one of the protesters, who suffered a head injury, claimed he had been assaulted by cops.
In a video of the clash that was shared online by ANI, Deputy Collector Priya Verma (wearing a pink jacket and a blue scarf) can be seen forcing her way through a crowd of people holding Indian flags and squatting on the road.
#WATCH Madhya Pradesh: A protestor pulls hair of Rajgarh Deputy Collector Priya Verma, after she hits BJP workers and drags them. The clash broke out during a demonstration in support of #CAA. pic.twitter.com/7ckpZaFBkJ— ANI (@ANI) January 19, 2020
The nearly 75-second long video shows Ms Verma grabbing some men by their collars and dragging them to be taken away by cops. Other shots show her slapping and shouting at others, as a crowd of angry pro-CAA supporters gather around her.
Towards the end of the video an unidentified man can be seen yanking on her hair, causing the hair band to fall off. However, the video doesn't show either Ms Verma or Ms Agrawal being kicked.
In another video, Ms Nivedita can be seen confronting a furious protester held by back by several policeman. Amid a deafening din of chanting and shouting, the District Collector slaps the man.
राजगढ़ में नागरिकता कानून के समर्थन में निकली रैली में कलेक्टर ने जड़ दिये बीजेपी कार्यकर्ता पर थप्पड़! @ndtvindia@shailendranrb@ajaiksaran#UPBJYMSUPPORTSCAA#CAA_NRCProtests#CAA2019pic.twitter.com/ZlSDIakesv— Anurag Dwary (@Anurag_Dwary) January 19, 2020
Section 144 was imposed in the district on Saturday. However, BJP workers, led by former MLAs Amar Singh Yadav, Mohan Sharma and Dilbar Singh Yadav, the President of the district unit of the party, took out a 'tiranga yatra' nonetheless.
The BJP, which is in the opposition in the state, had a dramatic response to the incident in Rajgarh, calling it a "black letter day" for democracy.
"Collector madam... which law book have you read that empowers you to beat up and drag citizens protesting peacefully? Congress-led government should hear it loud and clear that Hitlerism with people of MP would not be tolerated," former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said.
"It is a black day for democracy, the collector slapped people who were chanting ''Bharat Mata ki Jai'' and holding tricolor in their hands, this is too much," he was further quoted as saying by ANI.
Mr Chouhan also said an FIR (first information report) would be filed against the District Collector.
The Congress hit back by blaming the BJP, with spokesperson Narendra Saluja pointing out the opposition party had carried out the march despite being denied permission.
"Carrying out march-procession sans permission and then misbehaving with women officers exposes that BJP wants to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere and has no respect for women," he tweeted.
Two FIRs have been registered against 124 people in connection with the incident; one for molestation, naming two people, and the other for violation of Section 144. Seventeen people have been arrested so far, according to news agency ANI, including one for the attack on Ms Verma
The CAA, which was rushed through parliament last month, makes religion the test of Indian citizenship for the first time. The government claims it will help non-Muslim refugees from Muslim-dominated neighbouring countries if they fled because of religious persecution. However, critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution.
With input from ANI