Stone pelting, protests across nation over comments against Prophet

Massive protests erupted in parts of Delhi, Hyderabad, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand, following Friday prayers over the controversial remarks against Prophet Mohammed by suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma recently. The union government had told the states and UTs to be on alert. A senior official at the North Block said the situation is being monitored and additional central forces are being deployed to control the situation.

On Friday, a large crowd gathered outside Delhi’s Jama Masjid demanding Sharma’s arrest, police said. Scores of people held a protest, carrying placards and shouting slogans against Sharma. Late on Friday evening, Delhi Police said the situation is under control now. “People protested at Jama Masjid against the statements of suspended BJP leader Nupur Sharma and expelled BJP leader Naveen Kumar Jindal. We have removed the people from there. The situation is under control now,” said a Delhi police official.

“Over 1,500 people had gathered in Jama Masjid for Friday prayers. After the prayers, nearly 300 people came out and started to protest over the inflammatory remarks by Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal,” said DCP Central District Shweta Chauhan. Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid said, “No call for protest was given by the Masjid…We don’t know who the ones are protesting. I think they belong to AIMIM or are Owaisi’s people. We made it clear that if they want to protest, they can, but we will not support them,” Shahi Imam told reporters.

According to eye-witnesses, the protest lasted for around 15 to 20 minutes, after which the protesters were dispersed from the area.

In Uttar Pradesh, several districts witnessed agitation after Friday prayers, with the situation turning violent in a locality in Prayagraj, where members of the minority community pelted stones at the police.

Taking a cue from last week’s clashes in Kanpur, the police and administration had deployed heavy force in communal hotspots across the state ahead of Friday prayers, and had also been given assurances by religious leaders. In Saharanpur, soon after Friday prayers, people coming out of the city’s Jama Masjid were joined by hundreds of others who then took out a march to the Clock Tower raising religious slogans. They were later dispersed. 21 people were arrested for protesting without permission.

Similar gatherings were witnessed in Moradabad and Firozabad but were dispersed without any violence being reported. In Prayagraj however, soon after the protesting crowd was dispersed, protestors in Atala started pelting stones at the force from terraces and narrow lanes. Intermittent stone pelting took place for close to two hours, along with torching and breaking of some vehicles, including a RAF van, before the situation was brought under control using tear gas and lathi charge. Several policemen and some media persons were injured mildly.

Speaking to reporters, Prem Prakash, ADG, Prayagraj zone, said protesting crowd had been dispersed after the Friday prayers, however, soon after, young kids, equipped with stones and their faces covered started emerging and raising slogans. Appeals by the police to go inside their homes were not adhered to and they started pelting stones. “Police had to exercise restraint as there was a significant number of kids involved. They were pelting stones intermittently, almost like guerilla warfare. Mischievous elements incited kids on the basis of faith and pushed them to attack,” said Prakash, adding those who were found to have played a role during the violent anti-CAA protests of 2019, are suspected to have played a role here too including some left wing organisations as well as the AIMIM and SP. Prakash said apart from action and recovery of damage done, the police will also “step up” removal of illegal constructions in the area which have become “hubs of goondaism”. The police arrested 139 people across cities.

In Jharkhand, few policemen were injured while controlling an irate mob near Hanuman Temple in Ranchi. The situation was tense as additional forces had to be deployed. Similarly, two vehicles were set on fire and stones pelted near Kolkata as the violent protests continued on Kona Expressway and NH6.

In Howarh’s Dhulagarh, a police kiosk was set ablaze and in Uluberia tyres were burnt. Rapid Action Force (RAF) and a huge contingent of police force was deployed. Vehicles, ambulances, police vans, fire tenders and trucks were stuck in traffic snarl for hours which extended up to several kilometres today. On Thursday , following the disruption caused by the protests, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had called a press conference and urged them to maintain peace.

Protests were also organised at Park Circus after Friday prayers for over two hours. Later in the day, the state government suspended the internet services till 6 am on June 13 in Howrah. There are no restrictions on the voice calls or SMS.

In Hyderabad, protests were witnessed outside Mecca Masjid. “With the intervention of the Police, protesters were dispersed from the spot. Police force and the CRPF have been deployed in the area now,” said an official.

In Maharashtra, there were massive agitations in Solapur and Navi Mumbai.

In Rajasthan, there were protests in Tonk and Sikar. In a memorandum to the district administration, Tonk Muslim Alliance demanded action against Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal. A similar memorandum was submitted to the administration in Sikar district.

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