Twenty-four people including a superintendent of police official were killed and hundreds injured in clashes between security forces and member sofa little-known revolutionary sect armed with sophisticated weapons in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura, officials said on Friday.
The violence erupted when police moved in to the Jawahar Bagh Park on Thursday to evict about 3,000 people claiming to be followers of freedom-fighter Subhash Chandra Bose.
Among the dead were Mathura superintendent of police Mukul Dwivedi and Farah station house officer Santosh Yadav.
Police described the leader of the squatters Ram Vriksha Yadav as a man with radical views. The self-styled revolutionary organisation he led, Swadhin Bharat Vidhik Satyagrah, had a slew of bizarre demands including abolition of elections and the Indian rupee.
On Friday evening, a Bareilly court issued a non- bailable arrest warrant against Yadav and instructed police to present him by June 20.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav admitted that the government was taken aback by the amount of firepower the sect possessed.
“There were some lapses. Police should have gone with full preparation and after holding talks, but there was no information that they would be having so much (arms and ammunition,” he told reporters.
Yadav ordered the divisional commissioner of Mathura to investigate the violence while the Centre, in turn, sought a report from the state government. Union home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Yadav and assured the state of all help.
Police arrested more than 300 people and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition from the park which resembled a war zone the day after. Smoke billowed from huts allegedly burnt down by encroachers to stop police from moving in. Burnt cylinders, unwashed utensils, torn clothes lay scattered among the burnt out huts.
Ads by ZINC
“Twenty-two of their people have died, out of which 11 have died due to burn injuries. One of the dead is a woman,” Uttar Pradesh police chief Javeed Ahmad said in Mathura, a holy city believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
Local residents said t he sect members had taken over the park gradually since 2014, turning it into a self-sufficient residential colony which had its own vegetable gardens and grocery shops. The sect even has its own tractors to ferry rice and other goods for the families.
“They were mostly from Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. There were families staying in jhuggis inside the park but now there is not a single person to claim the bodies,” said a police officer.
The incident sparked a political blame game with the opposition attacking the government for a massive intelligence failure. The BJP demanded a judicial probe in the matter.
Residents said the sect members had clashed with lawyers a couple of months ago while attempting to occupy a portion of the Juvenile Justice Board and and tehsildar’s office building.
When police resisted, two police vehicles were torched and other government vehicles were damaged.
Amid calls for a CBI investigation, the ruling Samajwadi Party said the state government was capable of handling the matter.
“The state government is capable. It has already instituted a probe into the incident and no one responsible for the incident will be spared,” senior minister and SP state in-charge, Shivpal Singh Yadav, said.
Responding t o Bahujan Samaj Party president, Mayawati, demanding CM Yadav to step down, Shvipal countered: “So many heinous incidents took place in her government, did she quit?”