At least a dozen people including two police officials were injured in the violence that broke out in Kanpur after Friday prayers when members of one community, gathered to protest against the controversial remarks made by the Bharatiya Janta Party spokesperson Nupur Sharma about Prophet Mohammad, during a television debate, clashed with the police. So far 18 persons have been arrested in connection with the violence, police said.
A heavy police force has been deployed in the sensitive areas of the city and the Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police has rushed to Kanpur to take stock of the situation. UP Chief Minister Mr Adityanath said those responsible for the violence would not be spared and called a video conference of senior district officials in the evening.
Notably, the violence happened on a day when President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were in Kanpur Dehat (rural) for an official function in the native village of the President.
Police sources said the violence broke out on the Parade road, Nai Sadak, and Yateemkhana area of the city when the move to get the markets closed by a Muslim group was opposed by members of the other community. When the police tried to intervene, those who were trying to get the markets closed indulged in stone-pelting, injuring a police inspector and a constable. The police had to resort to lathi-charge to restore order. Police said petrol bombs and gunshots were also fired.
Kanpur district magistrate Neha Sharma said the situation was under control and the injured were rushed to the hospital. She said the reasons for the violence were being investigated and the miscreants would not be spared.
According to local sources, Hayat Zafar Hashmi, a Muslim leader whose name cropped up during the Anti-CAA protests had appealed for a bandh on June 5. The Hindu businessmen were not in favour of the shutdown. Gyanendra Shukla, a local journalist questioned the reason for the protest being advanced by two days. He said it seemed one group came prepared to pelt stones at a Hindu enclave on Nai Sadak. “However, nobody could identify them. It seems they were outsiders who were called in to create trouble,” he said.
A local Muslim leader said the posters that came up in the city clearly mentioned that on Friday, a bandh would be observed and on June 5, a protest march would be taken out and Muslims will court arrest. "The poster clearly mentioned that only Muslim shop owners would observe the Bandh. It seems some miscreants infiltrated the protest and stones were pelted from both sides," he said. The posters invoked Namoos-e-Risalat, the idea to protect the honour of the Prophet at any cost.
Local MLA Irfan Solanki said it was the failure of the police and intelligence when there was a VIP movement in the city. “When somebody had given a call for shut down, the administration should have taken cognisance of it in advance and accepted the memorandum, he said.
Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order Prashant Kumar said the situation was under control. He said the violence broke out when one group tried to oppose the forced closure of markets by Muslims after Friday prayers. He further said 18 people had been arrested and further identification of trouble makers was being done through video clips, photographs and CCTV footage. Mr Kumar said Gangster’s Act would be invoked against those responsible for inciting violence and their property would be seized.
Making an appeal to maintain peace, Samajwadi President Akhilesh Yadav described the violence as an intelligence failure and demanded the arrest of the BJP leader responsible for the violence on a day when the President and PM were in the city.