Police picked up a journalist who works for a national daily on Friday and allegedly forced him, with threats to tear out his beard, to “confess” to involvement in arson and attacks on security forces during Thursday’s protests in Lucknow.
Omar Rashid, Lucknow-based correspondent of The Hindu and a Kashmiri, told The Telegraph he was forced to stand in queue with other detainees, made to hold a placard bearing his name and photographed, as is the practice when a suspected criminal is arrested.
He said officers threatened torture if he didn’t reveal where he had “given shelter to Kashmiri terrorists” who the police claimed were in Lucknow to organise protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the National Register of Citizens.
Omar appears to have been picked up because he was with a rights activist from an organisation disliked by the security establishment, sported a beard and “looked Kashmiri”.
During the December 15 crackdown on the Jamia Millia Islamia, the Delhi police had rounded up all “Kashmiri-looking” male students in one room.
Omar said he and activist Robin Verma were at a restaurant near the state BJP headquarters in front of the Assembly around 6.45pm when plainclothes police barged in, grabbed the two men and shoved them into a jeep.
“They first took us to Hazratganj police station. I kept telling them I was a journalist and showed my identity card but they said they believed me guilty of violence during Thursday’s protests,” Omar said.
“From Hazratganj they took me and Robin to Sultanganj police station, a 10-minute drive away. We were put inside a lock-up. Some policemen asked me where I had hidden ‘Fazlu’. I told them I didn’t know any Fazlu but they accused me of ‘doing drama’.”
Omar said he was released at 8.40pm after some journalists learnt about his detention and called the office of chief minister Yogi Adityanath to ask whether it was a crime to be a journalist. It appears that no case has been registered against Omar.
Verma — member of the Rihai Manch, which provides legal help to youths it believes were framed by the police in terror cases — was arrested late in the night and sent to jail with 30 others on Saturday.
Half an hour before detaining Omar and Verma, the police had arrested Mohammad Shoaib, the 70-year-old president of the Rihai Manch.
Shoaib, an advocate, has argued in court for many terror accused and has over the years been able to secure acquittals for half a dozen of them.
S.R. Darapuri — social activist, former inspector-general of police and a critic of the BJP — was arrested about half an hour before the police picked up Shoaib. Verma, Shoaib and Darapuri have been charged with rioting and criminal conspiracy.
Sources close to Shoaib and Darapuri said the two men had not participated in any street protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or the NRC so far.
Omar said that while he was covering Thursday’s protests, Verma had been with him throughout.