On 20 December, a day after the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath vowed to “take revenge” against those who had destroyed property during the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the state police stormed Muzaffarnagar. That day and night, Mehmood Nagar and Khalapar—both Muslim-majority neighbourhoods in the city—descended into violence, with a rampage by the UP police. According to residents, the police force used tear gas, lathi charges, and opened fire on the Muslim locals. Noor Mohammad, a young resident of Khalapar, was shot in the head and died.
The police denied firing any live bullets and claimed it only responded to the protestors turning violent, but numerous accounts from the two neighbourhoods narrated a different sequence of events. Multiple residents noted that as the protestors grew in number, the police acted with brute force to quell the protest march, joined by men in civilian clothes, who were differently identified as members of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Bajrang Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The locals said that the police and the members of the Hindutva groups terrorised the two Muslim neighbourhoods at night, and entered houses at random to attack its residents, destroy their belongings, and loot their money and jewellery.
That afternoon, Nisar a doctor and a resident of Muzaffarnagar, was in his clinic on Meerut road, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, when he noticed crowds of people walking past. The crowd was walking north towards Meenakshi chowk and growing larger by the minute. “It was after the Friday prayers, around 2.30 pm,” Nisar, who asked for his last name to remain confidential, told me. “The crowd consisted mostly of Muslim youth and they had decided to protest peacefully against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed NRC,” referring to the National Register of Citizens. I also spoke to Arif, a journalist who requested not to be identified by his organisation or his full name, was reporting from Meenakshi Chowk at the time. “The crowd was mostly leaderless and the youth consisted of locals as well as those from surrounding towns and villages,” Arif said. “They had decided to meet the district magistrate and hand over a letter pointing out that they were opposed to the CAA, but they intended to do it peacefully.”