People hold their ears while doing sit-ups as a punishment for breaking a lockdown imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus in Ahmedabad, India, March 24, 2020. (REUTERS/Amit Dave)

POLICE officers in India‘s northern state of Uttar Pradesh are making citizens who break its lockdown hold up signs reading “I am a friend of coronavirus” or “I am the enemy of society”, before posting their pictures on Twitter.

Social media was also going abuzz with videos of policemen caning people who violated curfew orders in various parts of the country.

Most of India, which had 519 confirmed cases and nine deaths on Tuesday (24), is under lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.

Mosque worker Mohammad Alim, 40, in UP’s Meerut city said he took a widow and her three sons to a police station in the city on his motorbike on Monday night to report an altercation with neighbours.

“When I reached the police-station, the inspector handed me that shaming sign and clicked my picture,” Alim told Reuters.

“I feel scared. I do not know whom to complain to now,” added Alim, who also accused officers of verbally abusing him.

Meerut police tweeted a picture of Alim holding a sign that read “I am a friend of coronavirus” with the caption, “Some people do not care about society’s safety”.

The police Twitter feed had nine more similar pictures, with comments in Hindi, including, “I do not believe in the law of the country” and “I do not care about my family or society”.

Meerut police officer Akhilesh Narayan Singh told Reuters that only people who did not follow orders to turn around and go home were photographed, adding that 22 cases of lockdown violations had been filed.

Asked about Alim’s case, Singh hung up and did not respond to follow-up calls or messages.

India‘s home ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In at least three other districts in the state, people who violate the lockdown order were being made to do sit-ups and squats, said police officer at the Malhaur police outpost in Lucknow.

“They asked the boys to go after 10 sit-ups,” added the man, who sought anonymity because he was not authorised to comment.

A spokesman for Lucknow police said they had no information about the sit-ups.

Such ‘punishments’ were meted out in Gujarat, too, where a list of about 200 people who recently entered India from abroad had been circulated on WhatsApp.

It was not immediately clear where the list, which included telephone numbers and addresses, originated.

“I am getting calls from random people who are inquiring if I did tests,” said a 21-year-old university student who recently flew back from the US, who requested anonymity.