Tension hangs thick in Old City, police on toes

Widespread protests against BJP MLA for Prophet remark; police direct businesses to close by 8 p.m.

Widespread protests against BJP MLA for Prophet remark; police direct businesses to close by 8 p.m.

The protests against suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator T. Raja Singh’s objectionable remark against Prophet Muhammad continued, albeit intermittently, since they broke out late on Monday night, prompting the police to direct the closure of shops and business establishments in the Old City by 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

In no mood to take chances with the law and order situation in the city, police made announcements on public address systems in the evening. With dusk falling, police began to intensively patrol the streets and urged people to close their shops and go home. This exercise was seen in Moghalpura, near Volta Hotel, and Kotla Alijah, among many other places. By 8 p.m., a vast majority of shops were closed. Police barricades and pickets were put in place across the Old City.

Around 9.45 p.m., an incident of stone-pelting was witnessed in Shalibanda. This led to heavy barricading of the area. Even as protesters appeared in Shalibanda in phases throughout Wednesday, the police preventively detained over 100 men. The protests also prompted the uniformed men to create road diversions across the Old City.

Posters condemning suspended BJP MLA T. Raja Singh lie strewn all over the Old City area. 

Posters condemning suspended BJP MLA T. Raja Singh lie strewn all over the Old City area.  | Photo Credit: RAMAKRISHNA G.

Even as protesters appeared in Shalibanda in phases throughout Wednesday, the police preventively detained around 100 men. The protests also prompted the uniformed men to create road diversions across the Old City.

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Amid a significant increase in the constabulary across the city, police at first urged the irate, sloganeering youths to go home, but later resorted to using force — they lathi-charged the men into dispersing.

Members of the public began showing their displeasure soon after Mr Singh’s release from police custody. People poured into Charminar late on Tuesday night and began raising slogans and demanding death penalty for the Goshamahal legislator. A little earlier in the night, protests were seen in Chandrayangutta, Misrigunj, and Malakpet where scores of youths took to the streets. Dozens of men entered the Amberpet Police Station and demanded the arrest of Mr. Singh.

Burning of the MLA’s effigies continued across several parts of Old City continued well into the wee hours. Despite attempts to disperse them, the protesters, some carrying black flags and others holding the tricolour, returned.

As the night progressed, protesters poured into the Shalibanda crossroads and were seen near Charminar, Gulzar Houz and Vattapally. Young men on motorcycles were seen throughout Old City, raising slogans.

Around 1 a.m., the streets near Allah Masjid in Shalibanda were bursting at the seams with young men. The youths continued to raise slogans and refused to budge, despite the police’s urging.

A small section of the protesters turned into a mob and resorted to violence and damaged two police vehicles. A taxi was also attacked and damaged. Police resorted to lathicharge to disperse them.

In an attempt to pacify the demonstrators, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) legislator Ahmed Balala reached the scene around 2.45 a.m. He then tried to reason with them but the protesters refused to heed his calls of pacification.

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Amid intense sloganeering, Mr. Balala spoke to senior police officers and demanded that the Preventive Detention Act be invoked against the BJP lawmaker and was given an assurance.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (South Zone) P. Sai Chaitanya was on the spot. Speaking to the media, he said that Mr. Singh’s intention and utterances against Prophet Muhammad were uncalled for and wrong. He said he empathised with the peaceful protesters and urged them not to indulge in any violence.

Mr. Chaitanya also said that the Hyderabad City Police have taken Mr. Singh’s objectionable statements and the ensuing reactions as a matter of “ego” and would take all possible measures to put him behind bars.

Other senior officers, including Additional Commissioner of Police D.S. Chauhan patiently reasoned with the men, urging them to exercise restraint.

Tension was also palpable near Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha leader Laddu Yadav’s house who alleged that unknown people had entered his neighbourhood and tore off banners. Mr Yadav was recently arrested for allegedly using unparliamentary language against AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi.

In a separate incident, unconfirmed reports of two youths being assaulted were circulating.