Ever since they settled at Mathura’s Jawahar Bagh in 2014, the Swadheen Bharat Subhash Sena (SBSS) had been preparing for battle, piling up arms, ammunition and crude bombs, its ranks swelling — all this, right under the nose of the district administration.
On one side of Jawahar Bagh is the office of the Mathura Superintendent of Police; on the other, the Tehsil office. Along the same road are offices of the district magistrate, the Mathura district court, the police control room, the reserve police line and Mathura Jail.
The site of Thursday’s clashes between the SBSS and police, which led to 24 deaths, is also barely 2 km from the Mathura Cantonment.
On Friday, local residents, senior state and district officials and police officers told The Indian Express that the operation to evict the SBSS was ill-conceived, disregarded intelligence inputs and underestimated the strength of the Sena.
* The district administration claims ‘Operation Jawahar Bagh’ was planned for a month. On Thursday, there were only 60 policemen, led by SP (City) Mukul Dwivedi and City Magistrate Ram Araj Yadav, to confront over 3,000 armed ‘satyagrahis’.
* Over 23 notices were served to SBSS to evacuate the land. In the last 15 days alone, three operations were carried out to recce Jawahar Bagh.
* By the time additional forces rushed to the spot after the SBSS open fire at the police team, the protesters had overpowered many policemen.
* For two years, local intelligence units and police were unable to enter the site and get details about SBSS leaders, including their chief Ram Vriksha Yadav from Ghazipur and his lieutenant, Chandan Bose, from Bihar.
* In 2015, then UP DGP A K Jain had received intelligence reports about movement of criminal elements to Jawahar Bagh after the SBSS had occupied the land illegally. The reports also said illegal arms and ammunition were stored inside. Jain sought directions from higher-ups to initiate action but was asked to wait for a court order.
When contacted, A K Jain, who is now retired, said, “It was in early 2015 when I was briefed about Jawahar Bagh. I was told the situation was alarming as a large number of anti-social elements had gathered and stored a large number of illegal arms and ammunitions. It was then decided to wait for a court order to start the eviction drive.”
* Intelligence reports also said food grains were brought in trucks from Madhya Pradesh. They said that over 2,000 Sena members had built concrete structures inside, and that experts were called from other states to prepare country-made pistols and bombs.
* “No attempt was made to identify those who had encroached the land. Police lodged several FIRs against these protestors but many remained unidentified,” said Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, a senior lawyer and ex-president of the Mathura bar association, who had filed a PIL in the High Court to get Jawahar Bagh vacated.
* Police had lodged at least seven FIRs against members of the SBSS on charges including assault, abduction and damaging government property. Tomar said, “The police failed to act against these protesters even when dozens of complaints were filed against them by locals, police and administrative officials. They had power connections, water supply and all basic facilities. Who arranged these amenities?”
* Intelligence inputs had also said that several people from Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, who believed in running a parallel government, had gathered in Jawahar Bagh.
Former DGP Jain described Thursday’s drive as an “ill-conceived operation”. “The operation should have been done early morning and senior officials should have been deputed at the spot. Central and paramilitary forces should have also been sent for such an operation,” said Jain.