A clash between the police and encroachers at Mathura’s Jawahar Bagh on Thursday evening claimed the lives of 24 people, including a Superintendent of Police and a Station House Officer. As many as 124 people have been arrested on charges of murder and rioting and are likely to be slapped with charges under the stringent National Security Act (NSA), police said.
Uttar Pradesh Director General of Police Javed Ahmed said 22 people from the outfit Swadheen Bharat Subhash Sena (SBSS), which had occupied the land belonging to the forest department, died in the clash. Ahmed said 11 people died in burn injuries suffered in cylinder explosions, while 11 died due to injuries suffered during the lathi charge.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav admitted that there had been “a lapse” on the part of the police and the district administration in preparing for the operation. “There is a lapse. We were not aware they had (arsenal),” he said.
Asked if Mathura police had arrested Ram Vriksha Yadav, the leader of the SBSS, Ahmed told The Indian Express that they are yet to identify two bodies, and there is a possibility that one of them could be Yadav’s.
“We are yet to identify two bodies. There is a possibility that one of them could be his. If that is not the case, we will arrest him as soon as possible,” the DGP said.
At least 23 police officers were injured in the operation to remove encroachers from the land, with over a dozen critical due to the bullet injuries, police said. Sources said only 14 bodies have been sent for post-mortem examination so far.
Police recovered 47 country-made pistols and rifles and 178 live cartridges from the accused. Fifteen vehicles were also recovered from Jawahar Bagh. “We will identify the owners of these vehicles and make arrests,” Ahmed said.
Police said that stringent sections under the NSA are likely to be invoked against the accused, and that about 200 preventive detentions have made been so far.
“A magisterial probe has also been ordered and over 200 people have been detained for questioning,” an officer said.
While the ‘satyagrahis’ had been occupying the land for the last two years, the local intelligence unit or the police had not gathered enough information about the identity of the occupants, 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.
“No attempt was made to identify the people who had encroached the land. Police lodged several FIRs against these protesters but a majority of them remained unidentified in the investigation,” Tomar said.