Amid fresh protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA in Lucknow, cops have been accused of taking away blankets and food meant for the protesters holding a demonstration at city's iconic clock tower since Friday evening. Dismissing the allegations in a statement, Lucknow police today said: "Do not spread rumours" but added that "blankets were seized after due process".
In visuals captured on mobile phones, policemen can be seen taking away blankets and boxes of what appeared to be food packets from the protest site on Saturday evening amid chaos. The cops - some of them wearing helmets - were also seen taking away sheets meant to be spread on the ground for those who wanted to spend the night there.
About 50 women began the sit-in demonstration on Friday. Sitting on the steps of the iconic clock tower, they said their protest is "indefinite" and it would continue till the law is repealed. The crowd swelled on Saturday night as scores of women and children joined the demonstration.
A mobile phone video shot on Saturday showed a woman protester running after some cops as she yells at them and asks: "Why are you taking the blankets?" A Sikh man who went there with food for the women and children said: "Some of the cops tried to stop us but others let us pass. This is basic humanity and so we are here."
The Lucknow Police gave a clarification today in a statement. "At the clock tower in Lucknow, during an illegal protest, some people tried to pitch a tent and they were denied permission. Some groups were distributing blankets in the park and many people, who were not a even part of the protest, came to take the blankets. We had to disperse the crowd there. The blankets were seized after due process. Please don't spread rumours," the statement read.
Despite the chaos on Saturday night at the clock tower, where several teams of Lucknow Police and the Rapid Action Force were on duty, the sit-in continued this morning and scores of women were seen shouting slogans at about 4 am.
The fresh wave of protests come nearly a month after clashes broke out over citizenship law in the state capital and one person was killed. Twenty-one people have died in different parts of Uttar Pradesh during protests against citizenship law in the last one month, the highest in the country.
Large gatherings are banned in Lucknow ahead of Republic Day, the city police tweeted on Saturday. It is not clear, however, when were the restrictions lifted after they were imposed last month amid protests.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA, which cleared the parliament last month, makes religion the test of citizenship in India for the first time. While the government claims that it will help minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries - Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan - to get citizenship if they fled to India because of religious persecution before 2015, critics say it is designed to discriminate against Muslims and violates the secular principles of the constitution.