Anti-CAA protester succumbs to bullet wound
Mohammad Tariq, 25, succumbed on Friday night to a bullet wound in his stomach, becoming the 24th person in Uttar Pradesh to be killed by direct attacks on protests against the amended citizenship act.
Tariq’s death in the prime of his life stands out for an additional reason — even Uttar Pradesh police have not blamed their usual suspects — “anti-social elements” — for the murder.
Instead, the police arrested a purported leader of the BJP’s youth wing 18 days after Tariq was shot at in Aligarh while marching against the amended citizenship act on February 23.
The BJP Yuva Morcha leader Vinay Varshneya, 35, was picked up on Thursday when the condition of Tariq had worsened.
The police were apparently alarmed by the size of the crowds that had gathered near the hospital where Tariq was being treated and did not want to add fuel to the fire by not acting. Mohammad Ibrahim, 26, who was also shot at on February 23 in Aligarh, is blinded in the left eye by a bullet and is recovering in hospital.
The situation was already fraught in the wake of the Delhi riots. Muniraj G, senior superintendent of police in Aligarh, said security had been beefed up in the city since Tariq’s death.
On December 19 and 20, as many as 23 protesters were killed in Uttar Pradesh. Chief minister Adityanath has been insisting that no one was killed in police firing. The police have so far acknowledged only one death in firing by them, saying Mohammad Sulaiman in Bijnore had opened fire on a constable who acted in self-defence on December 23.
The BJP-led administration had blamed the remaining 22 deaths on armed anti-social elements who had infiltrated the anti-CAA protest.
Against this backdrop, the arrest of Varshneya, who identifies himself as general secretary of the Aligarh city unit of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, assumes significance and stirs the question whether elements sympathetic to the government were deployed to target the protesters.
Since Varshneya was arrested, BJP leaders have been telling reporters off the record that Varshneya was “no longer” in the BJYM. Such claims are difficult to establish or disprove since local units of Sangh parivar outfits like the Yuva Morcha and the Bajrang Dal do not maintain official rolls.
Varshneya’s Facebook page carries the declaration: “Hindutva ke liye jeena shauk hai mera (Living for Hindutva is my passion).”
“There’s enough evidence that Varshneya was involved in firing at the protesters,” Aligarh superintendent of police (crime) Arvind Kumar said. Varshneya has told the police he only threw stones at the marchers and did not use a firearm.
But those familiar with the way the police work said they would prefer to wait till the chargesheet is filed before making up their mind on whether the police mean business.
Police said the charge against Varshneya and his alleged associates had been upgraded to murder from attempt to murder.
Tariq’s father Munnawar Khan said: “Video clips show Varshneya standing on the balcony of Surendra’s house and firing on the protesters.”
Ibrahim’s father Farooq Ansari has said in his police complaint, lodged on the basis of eyewitness accounts and purported video footage, that Gopal Singh, a grocer and alleged associate of Varshneya who is in hiding, shot at his son.