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Lathi-fuelled stampede kills child in Varanasi

Death toll since Thursday’s protests in Uttar Pradesh rose to 16 by Saturday afternoon

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 22.12.19, 3:22 AM
  • Updated 22.12.19, 3:57 AM
  • 2 mins read
Police personnel baton charge protesters demonstrating against the Citizenship Amendment Act, in Varanasi, on December 20, 2019. (PTI)

An eight-year-old boy crushed in a stampede set off by a police baton-charge on protesters in Varanasi died in hospital on Friday night as the death toll since Thursday’s protests in Uttar Pradesh rose to 16 by Saturday afternoon.

Mohammad Sageer, 8, was playing with his mates on the narrow Dharara street in Varanasi’s Bajardiha area when “a crowd came running to protect themselves from the police’s batons and boots”, his father Mohammad Vakil said.

One of his playmates, 15-year-old Mohammad Tanvir, is fighting for his life in the intensive care unit at the Banaras Hindu University hospital.

Vakil, a cook with a caterer, said his son died “because the police baton-charged a peaceful protest at 4pm”.

Sageer was the youngest of four brothers, said Vakil, who was a weaver but switched professions a few years ago because he was not earning enough.

The administration again suspended Internet connectivity in Lucknow at 5.30pm — after restoring it at 1pm but asking service providers to slow the speed. Sources within the service providers said the connectivity would be suspended at least till Monday.

Eight of the 16 who have died while protesting the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens were hit by bullets, fired either by the police or “mysterious people” among the crowds. Most of the rest died of head injuries caused by flying bricks or stones.

A 24-year-old, Mohammad Faiz, died in Rampur during Saturday’s protests, the police said.

Deaths of protesters have been reported from various places including Meerut, Bijnor, Muzaffarnagar, Sambhal, Firozabad, Kanpur and Varanasi.

Residents said the police caned and tear-gassed crowds and fired in the air, before some “mysterious people in the crowd” pulled out revolvers and fired.

State police chief Om Prakash Singh has denied that his force fired a single shot while controlling the protests, but protesters across the state — from Lucknow, Sambhal and Kanpur to Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Bahraich, Meerut, Bijnor and Rampur — have contradicted him.

“It’s a cold-blooded lie that the police are not firing on the protesters,” said Ahsan Ahmad in Rampur.

“Also, some unidentified people are carrying petrol in plastic bottles and using them as firebombs.”

Kalbe Jawad, a Shia cleric in Lucknow, told reporters that his worst fears were coming true.

“Politicians are setting people against people. The police are not bothered about the violent rioters and are picking up peaceful protesters. Let us understand the political game plan,” Jawad said. “I appeal to Muslims to avoid places where violence is going on.”

Violence erupted for the second day running in Kanpur, where a mob set a police station on fire on Saturday. A police station was torched in Rampur too.