Video footage puts PAC, police roles under scanner

Fp

Videos, CCTV footage and eyewitness accounts of the violence that spread across four towns in Faizabad district last month bring out the questionable role of the Uttar Pradesh police, not only during the incidents but in the days that followed as well.

If the video footage of the Faizabad violence shows the city police force "just standing and watching" the rioters instead of taking action, many victims of the violence in nearby Bhadarsa alleged that the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) not only "gave" the mobs a free hand, but actively engaged in looting and arson also. In some cases, people reportedly returned to their gutted houses only to be arrested on charges of rioting, attempt to murder and even murder.

When contacted, newly-appointed Faizabad district magistrate Ajay Shukla said they had also recovered several hours of footage from privately-shot videos and CCTVs. Asked about charges of police involvement in the violence in Bhadarsa, he said: "We are looking into that aspect as well. It is part of the overall investigation."

Following the violence on October 24, the Faizabad police had recovered videos from citizens and CCTV footage in a bid to identify rioters. While police officials maintained that at least 30 rioters have been identified, some of the footage implicates the security personnel as well.

For instance, in one such video footage, police officials outfitted in riot gear are clearly seen on one side of the road — some even sitting — while a mob grows larger by the minute on the opposite side.

A senior police official said the videos played an important role in the first round of suspensions and transfers of officers and personnel from the district. Stating that the standard procedure would have been to either order a lathicharge or at least remove the trouble-makers from the spot, he said: "But instead, some were trying to argue with the crowd and others were standing there watching... nobody seemed to be in charge."

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