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We Were Sending People Home, Say Pilibhit Officials as Clip of Leading Rally During Curfew Goes Viral

The alleged video shows Pilibhit District Magistrate Vaibhav Srivastava and Superintendent of Police Abhishek Dixit blowing conch shells and banging steel plates during the 14-hour Janata Curfew.

The alleged video shows Pilibhit District Magistrate Vaibhav Srivastava and Superintendent of Police Abhishek Dixit blowing conch shells and banging steel plates during the 14-hour Janata Curfew.

A 20-second video clip, showing Pilibhit District Magistrate Vaibhav Srivastava and Superintendent of Police Abhishek Dixit blowing conch shells and banging steel plates, went viral on social media.

Lucknow: A day after Pilibhit district administration came under fire for a video clip that showed district police chief and magistrate taking out a rally during the 14-hour ‘Janata Curfew’ on Sunday, the authorities claimed that officials were , in fact, trying to send people inside their houses.

In an address to the nation on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked people to step out of their balconies or doorways and express gratitude to those providing essential services during the coronavirus outbreak by clapping or beating plates at 5pm on Sunday.

Hours after exercise, a 20-second video clip, showing Pilibhit District Magistrate Vaibhav Srivastava and Superintendent of Police Abhishek Dixit blowing conch shells and banging steel plates, went viral on social media.

The officials faced criticism for breaking the isolation and ‘Janata Curfew’ protocols, forcing the Pilibhit district administration to issue a clarification and say that the SP and DM were not leading any ‘juloos’ but trying to send people inside their houses as using force was not a practical idea.

The video showed Srivastava wearing a black mask and ringing a bell and Dixit, who was blowing a ‘shankh’, walking next to him. Other top officials of the Pilibhit district administration were also seen walking along and clapping and banging thalis. Some children were also seen participating in the alleged march.

“DM and SP Pilibhit did not take out any juloos. Some people were out on roads, hence they were removed by a emotional way as using force was not a practical solution. The news in this regard is one sided, as a proof I am attaching a media byte,” the Pilibhit DM said in a tweet.

In the clip posted by the Pilibhit DM, he was heard saying, “’People took the appeal of the honourable Prime Minister seriously. However, I would like to appeal to them to stay indoors and not to gather at any one place as it increases the chances of spreading the infection. They should clap from inside their houses.”

Meanwhile, Pilibhit MP Varun Gandhi has demanded strict action against the officials. Tweeting the controvercial video on Monday, Gandhi said, "While many people, including myself, are in self quarantine & India battles COVID-19 on a war footing, the conduct of the SP and DM of Pilibhit is callous and irresponsible. Times likes these need mature conduct, like the PM advised. I urge action against those who violated the #JantaCurfew."

The incident comes at a time when a Pilibhit woman with travel history to a gulf country tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

Earlier on Sunday, the Uttar Pradesh government announced lockdown in 15 districts of the state from March 23 to 25. Pilibhit was also included in the list of locked down districts.

first published:March 23, 2020, 12:41 IST