After the violence sparked by the murder of BJP leader Vijay Pandit abated, police and paramilitary forces made a desperate bid to retain normalcy. But as burnt vehicles were removed, bullet casings picked up and shattered glass was swept to a side, the acrid stench of burnt plastic lingered on.
Vijay Pandit, a local BJP leader, was gunned down while he was drinking sugarcane juice at a juice stall on Dadri Road. Three assailants parked their bike near the stall, before shooting him dead and fleeing.
With the news of Pandit’s death, violence first broke out at Dadri police station — just metres away from the scene of crime. Window panes were smashed and 16 vehicles were torched. A truck brimming with pressure cookers was reduced to its skeletal frame.
The violence, fuelled by anger against police, spiralled uncontrollably. “Even after we arrived at the spot, the violence didn’t stop. We were suddenly under attack,” a police officer, who came from Kavi Nagar in Ghaziabad, said.
Police said all entry points to Dadri were closed. Check points were hastily erected, while a message was relayed to reserve forces at the Surajpur Police Lines to be prepared “for the worst”.
The barricading created traffic jams that spilled over to the NH 24. When a truck driver asked the police personnel at Lal Kuan to be allowed to go through Dadri, the officer said, “Waha kyu jaana hai. Marna hai kya (Why do you want to go there, do you want to die)?”
The clashes continued till after midnight and it was only after police fired shots into the air that the mob cleared away.
A crane company was called in to remove the trucks from Dadri Road, which connects Bulandshahar with Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar and is often described as Dadri’s lifeline. But as paramilitary and police forces patrolled the area, the road remained unusually deserted.
Vijay Singh, a security guard for an ATM had turned up for his night-shift at 9 pm. Minutes later the rampage had begun. Singh, had locked himself inside the ATM booth during the clash with the police. “Dadri has always been unsafe. This road in particular has seen many murders in the past years. But nothing like this,” he said.
By dawn, the cranes had carted the destroyed vehicles into an empty plot near the UP Roadways bus stop. But as the day’s first commuters stood waiting for their buses next to these burnt vehicles, they knew that it would be a while before the stench of burnt plastic could be removed.