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Posters, drones keep fearful locals indoors

Fear in the air: People in Firozabad say they are afraid of the police and the drones hovering over their houses.   | Photo Credit: Hemani Bhandari

Renowned for its colourful glass bangles, the only colour that Firozabad town saw on December 20 was red. It’s been a week since at least six people were shot dead here but posters, drones, and heavy police deployment have scared residents into staying indoors.

An eerie calm prevailed on Rasulpur bypass road where protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act had spilled on to after starting from inside the Mohammedgunj market on December 20. On Friday, most shops on both sides of the road and along interior streets in residential areas remained shut amid heavy police and paramilitary deployment. The policemen wore anti-riot gear with helmets and held batons in their hands as they made sure there was no assembly before or after “Jumme ki Namaz” (Friday prayers).

At every road junction and along prominent streets, posters were seen every few metres displaying pictures of those who authorities allege pelted stones during the protest on December 20. “Identity them and tell police,” read the message in Hindi on the posters. “These are the people who are behind the violence that took place in Firozabad city on December 20. These radicals committed arson, caused damage to public property and harmed public persons. Identity them and help police. You just have to call. Fulfil your duty as a responsible citizen. Your identity will be held confidential,” added the exhortation that accompanied a collage of 10 people’s photos in each poster. There were at least three such posters pasted at each location.

Locals of the area said that they were afraid of getting picked up by the police or being stopped by them to be asked “unnecessary” questions and of the drones hovering over their houses taking pictures and videos.

Big chase

Raeesa Begum (36), a resident of Rehmat Nagar, said that she has four daughters and three minor sons who run back inside the house as soon as they see a police car. “Bas yahi dar laga rehta ki police ghar ke andar na aa jaye, hamare bacchon ko le jaaye (We are just scared that police shouldn’t enter our house and take our children)”. She added that she had instructed her daughters to strictly not step out of the house and the boys were not allowed to leave the street. “What if they look similar to someone who is in those posters and police take them for interrogation. We don’t want to go through the pain,” she said.

Locals claimed that in the last one week police had stopped people and questioned them at check points. “I was going on a bike on December 25 and they stopped me near Naini Glass junction,” said Mohammed Rehman, a resident of Baghiya locality. “They asked me where I was going, what I was doing and why. I was only going to meet a friend. They let me go after 15 minutes,” he added.

Salma (53), resident of Rehmat Nagar, said that she saw a drone hovering over her residence on December 25 late evening. She came back downstairs and told her husband she had seen a “hawai jahaz”. When he went back to take a look, he realised it was a drone. “Now they are taking pictures of us drying clothes also? What if they take pictures of our children in these cameras and post them too,” she asked. “How will we able to prove anything in front of police? A part of our roof is being constructed and there is raw material including bricks kept on the terrace, what if they take these videos and say we had kept them for causing violence? We immediately removed everything” added Ms. Salma.

Meanwhile, the conclusion of Friday prayers in Baghiya was marked by an announcement on loud speakers from a mosque urging all the locals to either return to work or their homes so as to ensure that peace prevailed in the locality. “There are rumours that boys are being picked up in nearby areas and are going missing. How can one feel peaceful in such a situation. Our children are scared and not going for tuitions also,” said Ms. Salma.

While shops remained shut for three days from December 20, they started reopening Monday onwards, but not as usual. “Police cars start roaming around by 7 p.m. and ask us to shut [ the shops],” said Taufeeq who runs a small grocery store bear Jatavpuri Junction. “Before this, the shops used to remain open till 12,” he added.

Another resident of Baghiya, who didn’t wish to be identified, said that he was worried and disappointed at the government’s reaction to the violence. “I will not give my name and age because I am scared they’ll pick me up for speaking against them but they are blaming those who have been killed in this violence. All those who died in our area were not protesting. We are sure it’s police who fired. They [victims] should be compensated. But no one, no leader, even knows who they are. This was the cost of their lives?”

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2021 12:08:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/posters-drones-keep-fearful-locals-indoors/article30415091.ece

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