- Pilibhit cop seen with district magistrate leading crowd, ringing bells
- Police said march was held to tell people to avoid stepping out of homes
- Millions observed PM's call for "Janata Curfew" in coronavirus fight
A video from Uttar Pradesh's Pilibhit district, about 250 km from Lucknow, has triggered a controversy where a senior police officer can be seen with the district magistrate apparently leading a crowd, ringing bells, clanging steel plates to show support to those providing essential services while the entire country is on a self-quarantine mode over coronavirus.
As the clip was widely shared on social media on a day when millions observed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 14-hour self-quarantine call, dubbed as "Janata Curfew", questions were raised about violation of social distancing norms. The Pilibhit Police later clarified that the officials "did not defy the curfew".
In the clip, Superintendent of Police Abhishek Dikshit is seen blowing a conch shell, District Magistrate Vaibhav Srivastava clangs a steel plate as people around clap, march forward. Some kids are also a part of the crowd. The police had earlier tweeted that these officials were scheduled to take a stock of 14-hour lockdown across the city.
Later, in a tweet, the Pilbhit police clarified that the march was carried out to tell locals to avoid stepping out of their homes. "District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police were not trying to defy curfew. Some people were stepping out of their homes (in the streets) so they had to be told to go back. It was not reasonable to use force. One sided reports were doing rounds," the tweet in Hindi read.
@pilibhitpolice खंडन-DM व SP द्वारा जुलूस नहीं निकाला गया। कुछ जनता चूकि बाहर आ गयी थी अतः भावनात्मक जुड़ाव के द्वारा वहाँ से हटाया गया। चूँकि बल प्रयोग व्यावहारिक नहीं था। मात्र एकतरफ़ा खबर से भ्रामक खबर चलायी गयी है। प्रमाण के रूप में मीडिया बाइट संलग्न है @Uppolice@dgpuppic.twitter.com/NMzVEhnk3A— pilibhit police (@pilibhitpolice) March 22, 2020
"People took PM Modi's appeal of clanging utensils, clapping and express solidarity in these times. However, I appeal to all the people to stay inside their homes as public gatherings can increase the possibility of transmission," District Magistrate is heard saying in the video, shared in the post.
In a tweet, BJP MP Varun Gandhi slammed the officials for marching out in the streets. "While many people,including myself,are in self-quarantine & India battles COVID-19 on a war footing,the conduct of the SP & DM of Pilibhit is callous & irresponsible.Times like these need mature conduct,like the PM advised.I urge action against those who violated the #JantaCurfew," the post by 40-year-old leader read.
While many people,including myself,are in self-quarantine & India battles COVID-19 on a war footing,the conduct of the SP & DM of Pilibhit is callous & irresponsible.Times like these need mature conduct,like the PM advised.I urge action against those who violated the #JantaCurfewpic.twitter.com/7pZuPFBmup— Varun Gandhi (@varungandhi80) March 23, 2020
On Sunday, people across India - observing the self-curfew call - came out of their balconies in the evening after PM Modi's appeal. While urging for social distancing on Thursday, in a televised address, he had asked citizens to stand at their doors, windows and balconies at 5 pm and clap, clang utensils or ring bells in a show of support to those providing essential services, including doctors.
After the video from Pilibhit was widely shared on social media, the state government in a late-night notice also announced restrictions in the district - part of the nationwide lockdown in battle against COVID-19 that starts today.
Coronavirus has killed seven people in India, infected nearly 400. In UP, 26 cases have been reported.