From near-complete obscurity outside Mathura, Swadheen Bharat Vidhik Satyagrahi, also known as Swadheen Bharat Subhash Sena, has achieved national notoriety after Thursday’s violence that have so far led to the death of 24 people, including two police officers.
Members of the sect are followers of Jai Gurudev, a self-proclaimed spiritual leader from Uttar Pradesh who had amassed land and property worth hundreds of crores, apart from nursing a seemingly strong political connection, who died in 2012.
According to estimates, Gurudev had land worth Rs 4,000 crore. There’s a school and a petrol pump in Mathura owned by Jai Gurudev Trust, and the leader’s fleet of luxury cars included multiple Mercedes Benz, Skodas and BMWs. He also had a temple to himself in Mathura, dozens of ashrams, assets and cash amounting to crores. Besides, there were thousands of followers — including, allegedly, some powerful politicians.
Claiming to be “true followers” of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, the group, in 2006, had claimed that Bose was still alive — at 109 — with one member claiming he had met Netaji in the forests of Mujaihna in Sitapur district of UP. The group also makes sensationalist claims such as the Indian currency is the strongest in the world, that 1 rupee can buy 972 mg gold or tens of litres of diesel.
The group also wants Indian currency to yield way to ‘Azad Hind Bank’ currency notes, among other demands.
Thousands of supporters from the group had kept the police and district administration of Mathura on their toes for more than two years, demonstrating at Jawahar Bagh in the city since March 2014 with numerous demands. The police say the supporters assembled at Jawahar Bagh as part of a rally from Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, which was supposed to terminate in Delhi in April 2014. Mathura residents and members of Jai Gurudev Ashram claim they are from a splinter group of supporters of the late spiritual leader who want to build another ashram on government land they were eyeing to encroach.
The entire movement comprises various smaller groups, and Swadheen Bharat can be traced to another movement called Azad Bharat Vividh Vaicharik Kranti Jan Jagran. A post on the Facebook page of Swadheen Bharat clarifies they have no centralised leadership, and that the movement is “run by many people”.
On multiple occasions members of the group have claimed that Baba Jai Gurudev, or Tulsidas Maharaj, was the real Netaji. In 2012, the spiritual leader’s death led to a standoff between the trustees of his ashram and a group of supporters. The latter claimed that the ashram trustees had kidnapped their leader and were collecting money by spreading rumours of his failing health.
Pankaj Yadav, the purported leader of the ashram, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
“We cannot deny that these people wanted to grab government land,” said Vijay Pal Singh Tomar, a senior lawyer from Mathura who had filed a PIL in Allahabad High Court against the protesters that led to the court’s order, asking the administration to vacate the prime park.
Local activists also alleged that the Samajwadi Party government in UP had allowed the splinter group to protest in Mathura as Jai Gurudev was believed to come from from Etawah, home turf of SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, and was popular in the Yadav community.
AT GROUND ZERO
4:30 pm: Police, administration hold meeting to conduct recce of Jawahar Bagh. A 48-hour ultimatum had earlier been given to satyagrahis to move out. Sources say recce was to be done on June 4, when a safe exit plan for the final eviction was to take place. At the meeting, it is decided that the June 4 plan is to be implemented on June 2.
4:45 pm: A JCB is brought to the rear exit of the nursery. The wall is demolished by police as a planned exit point to evict the satyagrahis.
5 pm: Police and PAC deployed near the boundary wall
5:10 pm: Mathura and Agra roads are blocked. Entry and exit points sealed.
5:15 pm: The DM and SP (city) arrive at the main entry to hold talks with the group. The SP is accompanied by 8-10 officers.
5:25 pm: From treetops, satyagrahis fire at police. Another group starts hurling stones. Firing continues for seven minutes. Police claim that until this point, they had not fired as per SP’s order.
5:40 pm: 2 bullets hit SHO Santosh Yadav. Police start retaliating.
5:50 pm: 2 bullets hit SP Mukul Dwivedi. Personnel accompanying him also attacked.
6 pm: SP, SHO rushed to hospital.
6:30 pm: Satyagrahis start using hand grenades. Set their houses on fire.
6:45 pm: Satyagrahis begin to blast LPG cylinders; trigger over a dozen explosions.
6:50 pm: Protesters make announcement through speakers, ask police to stop firing. Police confirms SHO’s death.
7 pm: The operation is over. Police claim at least 30 men surrendered. Fire is brought under control.
7:30 pm: District magistrate comes out of Jawahar Bagh, apprises CM of the operation.
Midnight: Search operation inside nursery on. Top cops, including DGP, arrive in Mathura.
FRIDAY 9 am: Police confirm 124 arrests.
10:00 am: Police confirm death of 22 satyagrahis. Claim 11 died due to cylinder blasts.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines