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Wednesday 19 February 2020

‘Friday prayer alert’ across Uttar Pradesh

The administration is taking precautionary measures as Friday prayers have long been associated with provocative political speeches of the kind that led to riots seven days ago

The riots following the Friday namāz (salah) of the last week has put the Uttar Pradesh government on tenterhooks. Following several incidents of violence over the Citizenship Act 2019, while the situation is slowly returning to normal, once again the authority has shut internet services in many districts. In view of the namaaz of 27 December, the administration is taking all precautionary measures to pre-empt more riots as the jume’ ki namāz has for long been associated with provocative political speeches.

Internet is off in districts like Saharanpur, Meerut, Agra, Bulandshahar, Ghaziabad and Bijnor since the morning. The state administration has instructed all district magistrates to turn off the internet in their respective areas on getting information about tension gripping a place under their jurisdiction.

According to Home Secretary Avnish Awasthi, if the authority decides to stop the internet for more than three days in a certain district, the district magistrate must seek permission from higher-ups. But if the service is to be stopped for a few hours up to less than 72 hours as a precautionary measure, the district magistrate is authorised for the action.

The internet will remain unavailable in five districts until evening tomorrow, the time for the last daytime namāz. These are the districts where violence erupted after Friday prayers and many lives were lost.

The situation is normal at the moment. Section 144 is on, but the administration is taking precautions so that violent demonstrations do not recur.

On 20 December, the internet service was stopped in 15 districts including the state capital Lucknow while an alert was issued in Aligarh after riots broke out following the Friday prayers. The authority blocked SMS and Messenger service too.

Last Friday, Internet services were stopped in Lucknow, Saharanpur, Meerut, Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad, Bareilly, Mau, Sambhal, Azamgarh, Agra, Kanpur, Unnao, Moradabad and Prayagraj districts.

State Director General of Police (Law and Order) Praveen Kumar said that the thanas registered 124 FIRs till last Friday. The complaints were all in connection with the protests against CAA. Police arrested 705 people and detained about 4,500 as preventive action against them.

The rioters had injured 263 policemen with stones or by arson. As many as 57 policemen were shot at.

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