By Sana Ejaz
Hyderabad: Many questions have arisen in Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) Rampur constituency where the just concluded by-election was won by the ruling BJP for the first time ever. Samajwadi Party’s Asim Raja lost the by-poll. However, it was the preceding events, in which three journalists were booked that have raised eyebrows.
Voting for the Rampur assembly by-election was underway on December 5, wherein a polling booth was also set up at Raza Inter College in the Ganj police station limits. Azam Khan’s son Abdula Azam Khan (MLA from Suar constituency in Rampur), along with three Journalists named Vikas Singh, Ankur Pratap Singh, and Shahbaz were booked for allegedly assaulting, misbehaving, and preventing voters from voting at the polling booth in Rampur.
A First Information Report (FIR) was registered at the Ganj police station based on the complaint of Rampur resident Nadeem Khan, who alleged that the accused thrashed him after he refused to show them his identity card. The accused have however maintained that the case filed is false and that they were simply doing their jobs.
To understand the sequence of events in Rampur, Siasat.com reached out to the accused. One of the journalists, Vikas Kumar, had the following to say about the incident:
“I don’t even know Nadeem Khan. We had gone there to cover the elections, and we saw the police driving people away and preventing them from voting. We were covering all this live and we took videos of the same. The police did not want those videos to come out that’s why they took away our phones and the data vanished. The police harassed us when we were kept in the police station for hours. They took us to a cyber security cell and deleted all the live videos and personal data from our Facebook page. They reset our phone twice”.
Journalist Shabaz Khan also said that Muslim voters were allegedly stopped from voting during the Rampur by-poll.
“We were covering it live recording there since morning. We are not with Abdullah Azam Khan and all of us came separately. The police did not want all these things to come out that’s why fake FIR was lodged against us. All the allegations against us are baseless. We met Nadeem Khan and asked him why has he lodged a complaint against us. He said that the police put pressure on him, and under their pressure, an FIR was filed.”
When Siasat.com tried to contact the Station Officer of Ganj police station on the case, he refused to give a statement. Attempts to contact other senior officials including the Rampur Superintendent of police also did not yield any results.
Samajwadi Party spokesperson Ameeque Jamei, on the allegations levelled against Abdulla Azam Khan, said that the incident was nothing but the abuse of power by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in UP.
“Whatever allegations have been levelled against Abdullah Azam Khan are baseless, there is no doubt about it. What happened with the Samajwadi Party in Rampur is shameful for the democracy of the country. How the Chief Minister misused his power to maintain a sense of enmity, is very problematic”.
A viral video during polling day in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur shows how the police mercilessly beat up Muslim voters and stopped them from casting their votes. Journalists were also being manhandled.
The police were seen as snatching away the voter cards of Muslims, abusing them, and shouting at them. Some videos show the police checking the IDs of people.
“I don’t know on whose orders the administration is working during elections. What briefing has been given? Complaints are coming continuously since morning. Police are not allowing people to cast votes,” Akhilesh Yadav told NDTV.
The Samajwadi party has alleged that Muslims were not allowed to cast their vote in Rampur. “We demand cancellation of Rampur elections. Our National General Security Ramgopal Yadav has written a letter to the Election Commission of India,” the spokesperson added.
(Sana Ejaz is a Patna-based freelance journalist)