Residents in Prayagraj’s Atala Fear Men in Plain Clothes Over Those in Khaki
Some have been exonerated and were let off after being wrongfully detained by local police.
The Quint DAILY
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Mohd Arshan Ansari is a third-year BSc student at Thakur Har Narayan Singh Degree college in Prayagraj, who was taking his Botany exam between 3 pm and 6 pm on Friday, 10 June. Later in the evening, he was picked up by police officers in plain clothes for his alleged role in the violence during the day. He was then wrongfully detained for a day before the police realised their mistake.
Strangers in plain clothes are making locals of Atala more jittery than presence of uniformed men deployed on all major streets since the day of violence in Prayagraj on 10 June.
Soon after the violence, locals claim, police in plain clothes had picked up their children allegedly by force after misbehaving with the family who resisted the arrests. Some have been exonerated in the initial investigation and were let off after being wrongfully detained by local police.
Speaking to The Quint, Altaf Ahmed Ansari, Arshan's maternal uncle who runs a general merchant shop in the area, said:
"At least four-five men in plain clothes arrived at our house. They asked for Arshan and we told them he had returned after taking the exam and had no role in the violence. They (police) misbehaved and abused us and took him away."Altaf Ahmed Ansari
Altaf approached the local police and produced Arshan's exam admit card as an alibi for his nephew's innocence. After a day in police detention, Arshan was let off and handed in Altaf's custody. However, not all arrested were lucky to have such a solid alibi to offer.
Three Neighbours Arrested, CCTV Destroyed
Arif Ali (31), Gulam Gaus (31), and Inayat Ali (19) live next to each other. The trio, who used to take up painting jobs for a living, were sitting on a platform at the entrance of Arif's residence on Saturday when they were ambushed by men in plain clothes.
"A day after the incident, people in plain clothes were making rounds on the street. A couple of men in plain clothes entered the lane and picked up our children. Before leaving, they tried snapping off CCTV wires and took away the DVR," a family member, who witnessed the incident, said.
In a lane close by, Shahina hasn't stopped worrying since the day violence broke out. Her husband Salim alias Guddu, an electrical goods mechanic, left home in the evening and hasn't returned since.
"I got worried when he didn't return in the night. The next morning my nephew told me that Salim's name is among the people who have been arrested," Shahina, a mother of three said. Salim is the lone breadwinner of the family.
An elderly resident Riyazul Haque Chaudhary (60), whose nephew Faizal was arrested in connection to the violence, said the local police in the crackdown went on a rampage.
"They tried destroying the CCTVs and damaged cars and vehicles parked in the lanes," Chaudhary said while pointing at cars with broken windshields. “We request the government to arrest people who were seen participating in the violence but should immediately release who were wrongfully arrested and jailed,” Chaudhary added.
Markets Shut Despite Administration’s Reassurance
Once a bustling market now resembles a strife-torn conflict zone with police and paramilitary personnel keeping an eye on every movement of locals in the area. The curfew-like situation has kept the local traders in panic mode.
"There are no big businesses here. Our livelihood depends on the daily earnings from the shops. Why are shopkeepers being harassed like this?" asked a shopkeeper on the condition of anonymity.
It has been five days since the area did any business at shops. Local shopkeepers claim the widespread police cover in the area in the aftermath of violence has kept the buyers at bay. Police meanwhile are claiming to intensify their crackdown hinting that there will be barely any respite for the residents of Atala area.
"All the damages of the violence, be it public or government property and the cost of extra force deployed in the area would be recovered from the people involved in the violence. If they try to escape arrest, their houses will be sealed. Wherever they go, they will not be spared, and recovery will be done," Ajay Kumar, Prayagraj senior superintendent of police said.
As per the official data on the crackdown post violence on 10 June, a total of 357 people have been arrested across nine districts in the state. A maximum of 97 have been arrested in Prayagraj in the three FIR registered in connection with the violence.
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