After a mob led by leaders of the BJP and some Hindu outfits laid siege to the Bhawanpur Police Station Monday morning demanding arrest of accused in an attack on a wedding party, nine people were picked up by police, including a local Samajwadi Party leader and his son. Four teams have been formed and a reward of Rs 10,000 announced to catch the nearly 60 other “unidentified persons” in the FIR.
On Sunday night, as the wedding procession of a software engineer with a Noida-based company and his bride was returning to his native Nangal village in Baghpat from her parents’ place in Alipur village in Meerut, they halted at Pachpeda village as the bride felt uneasy. According to an FIR lodged by the bride’s brother, their cars were immediately surrounded by a mob from Pachpeda, who misbehaved with his sister, robbed her of her jewellery, and attacked them with knives and lathis. Six people were injured in the incident, including the bride and groom, he said.
Among those in the procession was the groom’s brother, a Head Constable with the Delhi Police.
With police cracking down, an eerie silence prevailed in Pachpeda on Tuesday afternoon, with shops shut and many people leaving home fearing arrest. Among those arrested is SP leader Aarif Chauhan, who runs a tent business and is a confidant of a former SP minister, and son Shadaab, 30. His other son, Shehbaaz, 27, also named in the FIR, is absconding.
The others arrested are Khalid, Farooq, Imran, Rizwan, Yusuf, Zia ul haq and Shahane Alam. A minor who was picked up has been sent to a juvenile home.
The BJP legislator from Kithore, Satyaveer Tyagi, who met the family members of the bride at their village in Alipur Alampur in Meerut Monday evening, assured them that all those responsible for the attack would be dealt with sternly. Tyagi told The Indian Express over phone, “The attack was planned and aimed at defaming the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh. The incident was engineered by those who have been rendered jobless by our government’s consistent drive against cow slaughter and smuggling of cow carcasses, as well as by criminal elements, auto-lifters and those engaged in smuggling of illegal weapons.”
SP Meerut unit chief Rajpal Singh said, “We are collecting facts about the incident and also whether Aarif and his sons were involved in the condemnable act. We will send a report to the party high command if it is found to be true.”
Chauhan’s neighbours said that with the men of the family either behind bars or on the run, the women have “hid themselves” so that “police may not harass them”. They claimed that police parties had misbehaved with women and ransacked the houses of the accused and suspects.
Denying this, a police officer said if someone complained, they would take action.
Udham Singh, the in-charge of Bhawanpur Police Station, said a “massive hunt” had been launched to arrest those involved in Sunday’s attack. Singh, who was in the team that rushed to the rescue of the wedding party after they called police, said, “Around a dozen locals had reached there and were making lewd comments about the bride and also molested her. Her husband was badly beaten up when he tried to come to her rescue. Those accompanying the groom were attacked with knives and lathis. The jewellery of the bride was also looted by the villagers, who called others when the clash escalated.”
He said police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse the crowd.
Chakrapani Tripathi, the Deputy SP, Sadar (Rural), who also rushed to the spot, said, “Forces from six police stations of Meerut were sent. The issue could have taken an ugly communal turn.”
Singh said the FIR was lodged under IPC Sections 395 (dacoity),147 (rioting),149 (unlawful assembly guilty of offence), 504 (intentional insult) and 294 (punishment for obscene acts or words in public).
Sonu Adhana, who owns a milk shop opposite Chauhan’s house, said, “I was at my shop when the incident happened. I did not go to the spot but have closed my shop since Sunday in apprehension of police action.”
Aamir, who owns a laundry shop nearby, said, “We have nothing to do with what happened that night, yet we fear police action. We have left the village till the tension ends.”
Anuj Kaushik, the chief of a Yuva Brahmin Samaj Sewa Samiti, said, “It was a planned attack by a particular community on a Brahmin marriage party and we will not sit idle. We can go to any extent to fight for the basic rights of our community members.”