In the end, it was sheer lack of numbers that did the police in during their initial confrontation with protesters in Mathura on Thursday.
The district administration and the police had been preparing for “Operation Jawahar Bagh” for more than a month, but failed to execute it with precision as the team that went to remove more than 3,000 armed protesters squatting in Jawahar Bagh for past two years had only about 50 or 60 police personnel.
Sources in Mathura police said it was only after the protesters — members of Swadheen Bharat Vidhik Satyagrahi, an outfit claiming to owe allegiance to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose — started firing indiscriminately at the police team that additional forces were rushed. But by then the agitators had overpowered the policemen, sources said.
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According to sources, SP (City) Mukul Dwivedi was denied permission to open fire, which meant many policemen were injured in the initial exchange of fire. Dwivedi and SHO Santosh Yadav died in the operation.
On Friday, District Magistrate Rajesh Kumar told the media that it was supposed to be a trial — a recce. “It wasn’t the final operation. We never expected that they will attack us. They had never done that even during previous trials,” he said.
While the protesters were squatting at Jawhar Bagh for more than two years, neither the local intelligence unit nor the police had managed to enter the area all these months to get details on identities of the protesters. The police had information about four leaders of the “satyagrahis”, which include their leader Ram Vriksh Yadav from Ghazipur, Chandan Bose from Bihar and two others.
Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, a senior lawyer and former president of Mathura Bar Association, who had filed a PIL in Allahabad High Court to get Jawahar Bagh vacated, said, “The police failed to take any action against these protesters even after dozens of complaints were filed against them by locals, police and administrative officials. They had power connections, water supply and all basic facilities. Who ordered (to provide them) all these amenities needs to be probed.”
An official said, “The protesters cut down trees to use as fuel for cooking…the garden has turned into a barren land. Threatened by these protesters, government employees had stopped coming to Jawahar Bagh,” the official said. Another official claimed that the protesters were running several shops from inside Jawahar Bagh where household goods was available at prices lower than the market. “Many people, including policemen and government officials, went to this market. But no one knows how these people got edibles and other articles at such low rates, and who allowed them to sell the products,” the official said.