Violence erupted after Alvida namaz (on the last Friday of Ramzan) in Lucknow as a mob, numbering about 500, went berserk and indulged in large-scale violence, targeting mediapersons in particular and even beating up several bystanders who were caught unawares. The mayhem on a six-km stretch, from Pucca Pul (formerly Hardinge Bridge) near the Tile Wali Masjid and Asafi Imambara in the Old City to Dharna Sthal opposite the Vidhan Bhavan building, continued for about an hour notwithstanding a strong police presence on account of Alvida. Several persons, including five press photographers and TV cameramen, were injured in stone throwing and other violence, and over a dozen vehicles, including those of a TV channel, damaged and torched. Roadside shops at Buddha Park and near the Scientific Convention Centre were ransacked by the miscreants, who also roughed up some tourists at Buddha Park and the adjacent Haathi Park.
An FIR was lodged against unknown persons at the Hazratganj police station by the district administration. No arrests have been made.
Members of the All India Samyavak Backward Buddhjivi Employees Samiti (AISBES), who were staging a dharna at Dharna Sthal, were also roughed up by the protesters and their banners torn down. Ashokanandji, a Buddhist and president of AISBES, said three vehicles, including his Maruti 800, were damaged.
Violence against Muslims in Assam and Myanmar was said to be the cause of a protest march. But it is not known who was behind the decision to gherao Vidhan Sabha and who made speeches at Pucca Pul, inciting the mob. A dharna was staged at Dharna Sthal by the State unit of the Jamiatul Ulema Hind in protest against the atrocities on Muslims in Assam and Myanmar, but the JUH denied it was involved in violence and arson.
Lucknow Senior Superintendent of Police R.K. Chaturvedi told The Hindu that investigations were launched to find out the source of violence. Asked who made provocative speeches, he said a video grab was being examined. The SSP, however, said the protest march converged at the JUH dharna site at Dharna Sthal.
Buddha Park ravaged
It all started as people were returning home after prayers around 2 p.m. Some people gathered at Pucca Pul and gave a call to gherao Vidhan Sabha. Soon hundreds of youth and others joined the march. They first ransacked Buddha Park, broke the entrance gates, and beat up the security guards and some tourists. A similar situation prevailed at Haathi Park, Shaheed Smarak and Parivartan Chowk en route to Vidhan Bhavan and at Dharna Sthal. Mediapersons were beaten up at all these places and their cameras snatched. Some protesters carried the metal poles of road dividers, while others wielded bricks and blunt weapons.
The police used force to disperse the violent protesters, but only after the mediapersons protested and even staged a dharna at the Allahabad Bank crossing at Hazratganj.
Principal Secretary (Home) R.M. Srivastava has assured them that strict action would be taken against the culprits.
Two mediapersons have been hospitalised