A battered helmet, a torched Tata Sumo and glass shards lie merely 500 metres from Chingravati police booth in Bulandshahr’s Siyana town. The main road connecting the booth and the main city of Bulandshahr, almost 30 km away, is buzzing with police movement and Rapid Action Force trucks. In the villages of Mahua and Chingravati, both situated a few kilometres from the spot where a Station House Officer (SHO) was killed by a mob Monday, villagers spend the night contemplating the aftermath of the violence.
Trouble had started to brew Monday morning, when residents of both villages informed Siyana police station about alleged cow carcasses being found in the fields.
Demanding prompt action, around 50-60 villagers loaded the carcasses in tractor-trolleys and parked them outside Chingravati police booth, blocking the highway leading to Bulandshahr.
When Siyana station in-charge, Subodh Kumar Singh, reached the spot between 10 am and 11 am, he was accompanied by only three support staff, including a driver. The policemen requested agitated villagers to clear the traffic, promising to file an FIR and prompt action.
“It was essentially a request for clearing the way. The police officer was maintaining protocol by responding to a crime call. Our belief is that some hot-blooded elements came only for the purpose of creating a law and order situation,” said District Magistrate (Bulandshahr) Anuj Jha.
Reasoning soon gave way to arguments, and as the back and forth got out of control, some in the crowd resorted to stone pelting. According to police, the SHO and his aides were cornered by an violent mob. An initial round of firing in the air to disperse them only angered them further, officers said.
According to the prima facie sequence of events, police have ascertained that the police car drove towards the fields in an effort to escape the mob. Sobodh was, in the meanwhile, injured with a wound that was later confirmed to be a gunshot injury. The other officers, too, suffered injuries in the stone pelting.
Ram Ashray, who was driving the police vehicle, said: “We had to run for our lives since the stone peters were coming after us. We tried to carry Subodh sir’s body, but we had to abandon it due to the escalating unrest.”
Amid questions on whether police underestimated the gravity of the situation, the administration denied that the death took place due to a lack of police force.
“It is true that a major part of the force was deployed for the Ijtema, a Muslim congregation 45-50 km away. But one could not have foreseen the extent of the mob violence. Forces from other stations reached after being informed of the riot. But it was too late,” the district magistrate said.
ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar said the police were “identifying people through CCTV footage and various videos obtained from the spot. It’s a barbaric act to attack those who protect you. Stern action will be taken”.
Meanwhile, as police forces from Aligarh and other cities poured, officers from Chingravati booth were being transferred to another booth. The booth was also targeted in the violence as protesters threw stones at it and later burnt it to vent out anger. Charred vehicles, broken wire mesh and some washed uniforms were all that remained next to the booth, as officers awaited further instructions in the cold.