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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Maoists’ KKBN Division Fails To Take Ground In Odisha

The Maoist power is undeniably fizzling out in the ‘KKBN division’ and across Odisha.

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on July 23, 2020, two Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadres, including a woman, were killed in an exchange of fire with the Security Forces (SFs) in the Srila Reserve Forest area under Tumudibandha Police limits in the Kandhamal District of Odisha.

Director-General of Police (DGP) Abhay disclosed, “The Police Forces fired in self-defence. After the exchange of fire ended, the SOG [Special Operations Group] and DVF [District Voluntary Force] spotted two bodies – a male and a female. Both were in Maoist uniforms. We also recovered one INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) assault rifle, one carbine, and two country-made firearms.”

The identities of the slain Maoists are yet to be ascertained.


On July 6, 2020, a CPI-Maoist cadre was killed in an exchange of fire with the SFs, again in the Sirla Reserve Forest area under the Tumudibandha Police Station.

According to an Odisha Police release, “On Monday at 6.30 p.m., Maoists opened fire from an advantageous position and lobbed grenades at SOG and DVF jawans [troopers]. Police party immediately took cover and asked Maoists to stop firing and surrender. Some police personnel sustained injuries.”

The body of a slain Maoist along with two country-made weapons was recovered from the encounter site. The identity of the slain Maoist is yet to be ascertained.


On July 5, 2020, four CPI-Maoist cadres were killed in an exchange of fire with DVF and SOG personnel in the Sirla Reserve Forest. Though the individual identities of the slain Maoists are yet to be ascertained, it was found that all of them belonged to the ‘Kandhamal-Kalahandi-Boudh-Nayagarh (KKBN) Division’. Arms and ammunition, including three Self-Loading Rifles (SLRs), one INSAS assault rifle, two country-made weapons, SLR 16, Maoist literature and other articles were recovered from the encounter site.

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the ‘KKBN division’ – covering the Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Boudh, and Nayagarh Districts of Odisha – has accounted for at least eight Maoist-linked fatalities (one civilian and seven Maoists) in the current year, thus far (data till July 26, 2020).

During the corresponding period in 2019, the ‘division’ had recorded four fatalities (three civilians and one Maoist), and another three fatalities in the remaining period of 2019, to take the year’s tally to seven (five civilians and two Maoists).

The first-ever fatality in the ‘division’ was registered on February 15, 2008, when 14 Police personnel and two civilians were killed, and four Policemen sustained injuries, when around 500 heavily armed CPI-Maoist cadres carried out a coordinated attack targeting a Police Training School, the District armoury, and District Police Station near Daspalla in the Nayagarh District. Three Maoists were also killed in the incident.

Since then, the ‘division’ has accounted for a total of 94 fatalities, including 43 civilians, 21 SF personnel, and 30 Maoists (data till July 26, 2020), including the fatalities recorded on February 15, 2008. During this period (February 15, 2008, and July 26, 2020), Odisha has recorded a total of 760 fatalities (324 civilians, 171 SF personnel, 265 Maoists).


Thus, the ‘KKBN division’ alone accounted for 12.36 per cent of total Maoist-linked fatalities in the State.

A cursory look at the fatalities in the ‘KKBN division’ suggests that SFs, after suffering a major jolt on February 15, 2008, succeeded in putting immense pressure on the Maoists. While the overall ratio of fatalities in the ‘division’ stands in favour of the SFs at 1:1.42, it improved dramatically between 2013 and 2020, at 1:26.

The last SF fatality was recorded on June 4, 2017, when a SOG trooper was killed and six were injured in a CPI-Maoist ambush near Khamankhol under Baliguda Police Station limits in the Kandhamal District.

Moreover, since February 15, 2008, SFs have arrested at least 59 Maoists from the ‘KKBN division’, and mounting pressure resulted in the surrender of another 17 (data till July 26, 2020). In addition, combing operations by the SFs resulted in the recovery of arms and ammunition on 59 occasions between February 15, 2008, and July 26, 2020.

Most recently, on July 2, 2020, SFs busted a CPI-Maoist camp in the Samarbandha Forest area under Phiringia Police Station limits in Kandhamal District and recovered 15 kilograms of explosives containing urea, gunpowder and other substances, 28 detonators, digital multimeters, bags, blackcaps, rechargeable batteries, camp equipment, Maoist banners, posters and literature.

Despite SF successes, however, civilians continue to suffer, though significant improvement have been recorded between 2013 and 2020, as the SFs have come to dominate the region. 20 civilian fatalities were recorded during these seven years and seven months, as compared to 22 fatalities in the preceding four years and 11 months (approximately) between February 15, 2008, and December 31, 2012.

The ‘KKBN division’, spread over a geographical area of 22,562 square kilometres, offers crucial strategic advantages to the Maoists. The forest cover in the ‘division’ is 11,604 square kilometres, i.e., about 51.43 per cent of the total area. The ‘division’ is situated to the south of the state, and is mostly surrounded by currently Maoist-affected or erstwhile Maoist-affected Districts of the State.

To the south, the ‘KKBN division’ shares its borders with Gajapati, Koraput, Nabarangpur and Rayagada; to the north, with Angul, Bolangir and Subarnapur; to the east with Cuttack, Ganjam and Khordha; and to the west, with Nuapada, as well as Raipur in Chhattisgarh State.

The ‘KKBN division’ was once a stronghold of the Maoists. Unsurprisingly, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Boudh, and Nayagarh, along with another 11 Districts (Angul, Bargarh, Bolangir, Deogarh, Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Nuapada, Rayagada, Sambalpur, and Sundargarh) out of the State’s 30 Districts, were among the 90 Districts in 11 States listed as LWE-affected by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) on February 5, 2019. Of these 11 Districts, Koraput and Malkangiri, were among the ‘30 worst Maoist-affected’ Districts, across seven states in the country, according to the UMHA.

However, with the security situation improving rapidly, the Odisha State Government recommended to the UMHA to remove the names of five LWE-hit Districts from the Centre’s consolidated list of CPI-Maoist-affected Districts, for which the State receives funds under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme. On July 10, 2020, DGP Abhay, disclosed,


The UMHA has been urged to take off the names of Angul, Boudh, Sambalpur, Deogarh, and Nayagarh Districts, as the Maoist violence has been on the wane in the State and more rebels are also laying down their arms because of an intensified bid by the Security Forces to crush the internal rebellion.

The Maoist power is undeniably fizzling out in the ‘KKBN division’ and across Odisha. It is now up to the Governments – the Centre and State – to expand the necessary administrative, developmental and security outreach in the Districts of the ‘division’, as well as other LWE-affected regions of the State, to bring about more comprehensive normalcy and lasting peace.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Deepak Kumar Nayak

Deepak Kumar Nayak is a research assistant at Institute for Conflict Management and is involved in research and documentation of Left Wing Extremism (LWE) and insurgency in Northeast of India.

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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Paresh Baruah’s ULFA-I Trying To Get On Feet From China?

At present, the approximate cadre strength of ULFA (I) is said to be around 250.

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On October 4, 2020, an Assam Rifles (AR) trooper, Havildar Birendra Singh Yadav, was killed while another trooper was injured when terrorists ambushed their vehicle (a water tanker) near Hetlong village in the Changlang District of Arunachal Pradesh.

Later, the Independent faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-I), in an email sent to the media, claimed that it, along with the Yung Aung faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K-Yung Aung) and Revolutionary People’s Front/People’s Liberation Army (RPF/PLA), had jointly carried out the attack. NSCN-K-Yung Aung also sent an email reiterating the same claim.

On July 29, 2020, three AR personnel were killed and another five injured when terrorists ambushed their vehicle at Khongtal village in the Chandel district of Manipur. ULFA-I subsequently sent an email claiming that it, along with the Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF) and the RPF had jointly carried out the attack.


Significantly, after the demise of Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang, the ‘chairman’ of the Khaplang faction of the NSCN (NSCN-K) on June 9, 2017, and the subsequent internal feud within the NSCN-K, the ULFA-I ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah seems to have emerged as the leader of the Indian Insurgent Groups (IIGs) in Myanmar. This is evident with both Naga and Manipuri groups carrying out joint strikes, especially with the ULFA-I, after June 9, 2017.  Altogether 31 fatalities (one civilian, 20 SF personnel and 10 militants) have been registered in nine such joint strikes since that date.

Meanwhile, in the operations by the Myanmar Army (Tatmadaw) in January 2019 targeting IIGs, ULFA-I suffered the most. According to an affidavit filed by the Assam State Government in September 2020, before the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) tribunal, Tatmadaw operations targeting IIG camps in the Taka area of Sagiang Region had damaged the “Lungmark, Taka and Nilgiri camps of ULFA -I. Several cadres also deserted the outfit.”

Since the operations in Myanmar, 85 ULFA-I militants have surrendered (data till October 9, 2020). 51 of them surrendered in 2020, all in Assam.

In 2019, 34 ULFA-I cadres had surrendered (33 in Assam and one in Arunachal Pradesh). 35 ULFA-I militants had surrendered before the operations, since August 8, 2012, when ULFA-I was formed. Six ULFA-I militants surrendered in 2018, two each in 2017 and 2016, one in 2015, five in 2014, 18 in 2013 and one in 2012.


The group’s activities on the ground almost came to a halt after the Tatmadaw operations.

The July 29, 2020, attack (above) was the first reported attack resulting in fatalities in which ULFA-I was involved.

However, during the intervening period, ULFA-I took advantage of several opportunities to regain its hold in the region. One such opportunity was the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 by the Parliament in December 2019 (in the Lok Sabha on December 9 and Rajya Sabha on December 11). ULFA-I declared itself in favour of the agitation that followed the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, which spread across the Northeast region and was particularly intense in Assam.

ULFA-I ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah warned on December 11, 2019:

“The ULFA-I will not sit idle if a protesting student or any Assamese for that matter is assaulted. We appeal to Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta, Director General of Police (DGP) of Assam Police, not to lathi-charge people taking to the streets and vehemently opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. The DGP should control his police force and not harass innocent protesters.”

The enactment of CAA 2019 on December 12, 2019, when it received the President’s assent, is seen by groups representing ‘indigenous’ interest as a measure that not only legitimises present ‘illegal’ migrants, but also invites future migrations from neighbouring Bangladesh. The resultant demographic shift, they fear, will deprive indigenous populations of their political, cultural and ethnic rights. ULFA-I is trying to exploit such fears for its own ends.


Not surprisingly, ULFA’s support to the CAA agitation helped the outfit regain some support among the locals and to recruit new cadres.

Significantly, the State Government called-off the Rongali Bihu (April 14-20, 2020) celebrations citing COVID-19, but has now allowed the Durga Puja celebrations, albeit under restrictions, despite the situation on the ground being relatively worse.

Obviously, one of the reasons behind the Assam Government’s recent decision was intended to keep all dominant linguistic/ethnic groups happy before the upcoming State Assembly Elections in 2021, which are likely to be fought on identity issues.

Not to miss the opportunity, ULFA-I on September 4, 2020, urged the Assam Government to cancel the Durga Puja celebration this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating:

“The Assam Government had called-off the Rongali Bihu [Assamese harvest festival] amid the coronavirus pandemic and now to they have allowed celebrating the Durga Puja which is not acceptable.”

ULFA-I also stated that Assamese nationalism is not religion centric. The militant group further alleged that the State government is allowing Durga Puja celebration to please Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s extremist Hindu agenda.

Obsessed with a polarizing electoral strategy, the dominant political establishment is failing to understand the degree to which providing such opportunities is helping ULFA-I gain more support and revive its strength.

Meanwhile, according to a Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) notification dated, September 18, 2020:

“The ULFA(I) led by Paresh Baruah is currently based in Ruili, Yunnan Province, China is continuing with violent activities including extortion, recruitment and procurement of arms. The members of ULFA(I) are active in Upper Assam districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Lower Assam districts of Goalpara, Dhubri and Guwahati city, bordering areas of Udalguri, Darrang, Sonitpur, Lakhimpur districts of Assam besides in the bordering areas in districts of Tirap, Changlang, Longing, Namsai in Arunachal Pradesh, Mon district of Nagaland and Assam-Meghalaya-Bangladesh border.”

It added, “At present approximate cadre strength in ULFA (I) is around 250”.


It is imperative for the political establishment government to ensure that disruptive and polarizing strategies do not create opportunities for relatively marginalized insurgent formations to restore their legitimacy among the population.

Unfortunately, with Assembly Elections scheduled for 2021, such hopes are unlikely to be met, putting increasing pressure on SFs to deal with the consequences.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Giriraj Bhattacharjee

Giriraj Bhattacharjee is a Research Assistant at the Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi.

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DEFENCE-SECURITY

The India-Pak IB At Punjab Is Now The More Active Border

Given Pak’s incessant efforts to create turmoil in Punjab, the security forces will have to step up vigilance.

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On August 22, 2020, Border Security Force (BSF) personnel shot dead five unidentified armed Pakistani intruders in the Tarn Taran District of Punjab. A BSF spokesperson said that after suspicious activity was noticed near the India-Pakistan International Border (IB) in the region, the troopers “cordoned the area and challenged the intruders to stop and surrender. The Pakistani armed intruders did not pay any heed to the challenge and opened fire on the BSF troops resulting in a gun-battle.”

Later, the troopers recovered dead bodies of five slain intruders along with nine packets containing 9.92 kilograms heroin, an AK-47 rifle, four 9mm Beretta pistols, and some ammunition.

This was the most violent incident, in terms of the number of fatalities, recorded along the India-Pakistan International Border in Punjab, since 2000, according to data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM).


The worst previous incident was recorded on January 21, 2014, when BSF troops deployed in the area of Border Out Post (BOP) Naushera Dhalla in Amritsar District, shot dead three Pakistani intruders and recovered 20 kilograms of narcotics and ammunition.

Other prominent incidents of violence include:

October 26, 2013: BSF troops shot dead three Pakistani smugglers near the Mullankot border outpost in Amritsar District and recovered 24 kilograms of heroin and arms and ammunition.


March 29, 2012: BSF personnel killed three intruders and recovered 10 kilograms of heroin and one pistol from the check post near pillar number 72/17, close to the Sundergarh border outpost near the India-Pakistan International Border.

March 19, 2012: A patrolling party of the BSF shot dead three Pakistani intruders near Amarkot village in Amritsar District and recovered 22 kilograms of heroin.

According to partial data compiled by ICM, since 2000, at least 22 violent incidents have been reported along the IB in Punjab (data till August 30, 2020). These incidents have resulted in a total of 33 killings (all intruders) and two injuries (both intruders), and 13 arrests.

It has been found that the perpetrators in most of these violent incidents along the border were Pakistani intruders attempting to smuggle ‘composite consignments’ [weapons/drugs/Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN)] into the State, and thereafter, further into the rest of India, in order to help Pakistan-backed terrorist groups replenish their coffers as well as their armouries.

Indeed, on August 23, 2020, a day after the gun battle at the Border, BSF personnel detained four persons after a raid in the remote rural belt along the IB in Tarn Taran for their links with the five slain Pakistani intruders in the District. The Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Dhruman Nimbale, later disclosed,:


“Prima facie it appears to be an attempt to push narcotics from the Pakistan side in connivance with drug smugglers on this side of the border. Also, we unlocked the two mobile phones recovered from the scene. The call details and data led us to some border-belt residents. The phones have been sent for technical forensic examination, as it may lead us to more drug operators.”

On December 10, 2019, Parliament was informed that, according to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) data, large quantities of drugs had been recovered from Punjab between 2015 and 2018. These included a total of 5,414.5 kilograms of Ganja (cannabis); 1,830.72 kilograms of Heroin; 1,669.41 kilograms of Opium; 168,420.32 kilograms of Poppy Husk and Poppy Straw; and 15,888,517 tablets of all type.

SFs had arrested a total of 46,909 persons in drug-related cases over this period.

Recently, on March 4, 2020, the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Indian Parliament) informed that a total of 991.64 kilograms of Ganja (cannabis); 116.98 kilograms of Hashish; 894. 95 kilograms of Heroin, 361.57 kilograms of Opium; 31,559.155 kilograms of Poppy Husk and Poppy Straw; and 79,20,932 tablets of all type were recovered in 2019. SFs arrested a total of 10,057 persons in drug-related cases in 2019.

According to a data released by the BSF, as on August 23, 2020, around 357.931 kilograms of heroin worth INR 17.89 billion in the international market have been recovered by the BSF in the State during the current year. Meanwhile, according to the Punjab Police data, 662 kilograms of heroin was recovered in the State between January 1 and July 31, 2020. This included 209 kilograms recovered by the BSF. In 2019, a total of 1,096 kilograms of heroin was recovered in the state, including a single day recovery of 532 kilograms on June 29, 2019.

SAIR has already highlighted the increasing use of the air and water routes to smuggle ‘composite consignments’, the former using drones.

More recently, according to an August 23, 2020, report, the BSF issued an alert that “Pakistan’s ISI plans to pump in a massive consignment of drugs, arms and ammunition inside India with the help of drones”.

The intelligence wing of BSF also alerted the Security Forces (SFs) that Pakistan intended to use drones to attack security establishments near the IB in Jammu and Kashmir’s RS Pura and Samba sectors. The possibilities of such attacks in Punjab cannot be ruled out.

Further, according to an August 17, 2020, report, intruders from Pakistan were trying to use water channels to push ‘composite consignments’ into Indian territory. In this context, an unnamed BSF official stated:

“Enhanced vigilance by the BSF has thwarted the attempts from Pakistan to push consignments of contraband items into India and that is why they have now chosen riverine areas to push such consignments.”


Indeed, sources indicate that at least 72 incidents of seizures of ‘composite consignments’ were reported from border districts of Amritsar, Ferozepur and Gurdaspur between 2009 and 2019. The recoveries included drugs such as of heroin, opium, etc.; and weapons and ammunition including AK-47/56 rifles, pistols, and RDX, as well as counterfeit currency (Fake Indian Currency Notes, FICN).

Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) uses the services of a common network of ‘drug smugglers/couriers’ to push in ‘composite consignments’ into Indian Punjab from Pakistan, exploiting gaps along the land and riverine border.

The ‘drug smugglers/couriers’ working under the ISI’s aegis also throw the consignment over the Border fence in areas where infiltration is not suspected. Their Indian partners later collect the goods.

Meanwhile, according to an August 24, 2020 report, in a drive against the use of drones by the Pakistani operatives, the BSF, with the help of other security agencies is conducting anti-drone tests along the India-Pakistan border to shoot down any drone carrying weapon-load for terrorists in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.

To combat the narcotics menace in the State, the Narcotics Control Bureau had recently decided to undertake efforts and coordinate a crackdown along with the Punjab Special Task Force and the BSF, against drug traffickers and syndicates that operate along the India-Pakistan border.

Significantly, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, declared on June 26, 2020:

“…while the back of the drugs mafia had been successfully broken, the war is still continuing, with narco-terrorists from across the border continuing to push drugs into Punjab, using drones and other routes.”

The Security Forces have demonstrated their capabilities in neutralizing narco-terrorist networks and have neutralized numerous attempts by cross-border operatives to push ‘composite consignments’ into Punjab.

However, given Pakistan’s incessant efforts to create turmoil in Punjab, the security agencies will have to step up vigilance to neutralize every attempt to destabilize the situation in the State.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Dr Indrajit Sharma

Indrajit Sharma is associated with the South Asia Terrorism Portal at the Institute for Conflict Management, a New Delhi based think tank focusing on Conflict and Terrorism in South Asia. He holds an M.Phil. and a PhD in Security Studies from Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, India.

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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Delhi, Bangalore Type Riots Were Planned For Hathras; ED To File Case Under PLMA

Criminal conspiracy and FOREIGN FUNDING is suspected by the ED (too).

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LUCKNOW (Uttar Pradesh):  The Uttar Pradesh police on Monday claimed that there was a “conspiracy” by some groups and individuals to instigate caste and communal violence in the state in the aftermath of the Hathras case. On Sunday, an FIR was registered against unidentified persons at the Chandpa Police Station in Hathras under several stringent sections of the IPC, including sedition.

According to sources, a website, justiceforhathrasvictim.carrd.co, which was created overnight, was said to be created with the sole aim of throwing the state of Uttar Pradesh — at least — into chaos by inciting ethnic riots. The site has been taken down and is currently unavailable.

At the time of filing this report, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was said to be considering filing a case against the (now defunct) website under Prevention of Money Laundering Act in the Hathras case. Criminal conspiracy and FOREIGN FUNDING is suspected.


ED Joint Director (Lucknow zone) Rajeshwar Singh while speaking to news agency PTI said that the central probe agency is examining a Hathras police FIR filed against the website.

The investigation agencies also discovered links of the Popular Front of India (PFI), the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), Amnesty International and foreign countries through the website.

The agency is also likely to examine the “ultimate beneficiaries” of the money collected by this web portal and the service provider (telecom company) can be asked to share the IP address or addresses from where the webpage was launched.

The ED will also seek technical help from the Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-In) for analysing traffic on the website to obtain email ids and phone numbers used to buy the domain name. The web platform under the scanner has allegedly been developed by a US-based entity, as per officials.


Incriminating content such as fake videos, photoshopped images, doctored visuals was uploaded on the website to provoke riots and unrest in the country.

The content uploaded on the website included a detailed manual of the do’s and don’ts that the protesters should abide by during the riots. It also includes details of how to instigate riots and escape accountability. The manual touched upon several aspects, instructing rioters about the safety during a protest, what they should wear, what to bring with them to the protests, how to evade teargas and identification from the police and measures to be taken if they get arrested or detained by the law enforcement officials.

Most of the content of the website has been a copy-paste exercise from the provocative writing shared online by Black Lives Matters protesters in the United States of America. A bit like this pamphlet:

At least six FIRs have been lodged in Hathras, including one invoking sedition and criminal conspiracy, against persons and parties for allegedly trying to instigate the victim’s family, violating COVID-19 and Section 144 norms through illegal assemblies in and around the affected village, and for trying to spread caste discord through misleading statements, police said.

Additionally, 13 FIRs were lodged and five persons were arrested in Bijnor, Hathras, Saharanpur, Bulandshahr, Prayagraj, Ayodhya and Lucknow on charges of posting offensive statements over the incident on social media.

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