MATHURA: 24 people, including an SP and an SHO, have been killed in yesterday's massive clash between police and members of a sect who had encroached on government land here, even as tension prevailed in the area with police seizing a large cache of munition from the site and arresting 320 people.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav ordered a probe by the divisional commissioner of Mathura into the violence at Jawahar Bagh where nearly 3,000 people had illegally set up camp on an over 260-acre plot since last two years.
The Centre sought a report from the Uttar Pradesh government on the incident while Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Yadav and assured the state government of all necessary help.
According to state Director General of Police Javed Ahmed, there was "unprovoked" firing by encroachers who pelted stones and attacked the policemen with lathis as they arrived at the site for a recce to carry out the eviction, leading to the death of Superintendent of Police, City, Mukul Dwivedi and Station House officer, Farah, Santosh Yadav.
"The police teams reorganised themselves. After two shelters were vacated, the protesters set afire gas cylinders and munition stored there which led to several explosions.
"22 rioters were killed in the violence. These include 11 persons who were killed in a fire started by the agitators," he said. The deceased also included a woman.
"Our two young officers laid down their lives while protecting the law and with a heavy heart we bid adieu to them," the DGP told reporters after paying tributes to the slain officers.
He said 23 police personnel have been hospitalised and many among them have suffered bullet injuries.
"We have recovered 47 guns, six rifles and 178 hand grenades from the area," he said, adding "124 people have been arrested for creating disturbances. Another 196, including 116 women, have been arrested under 151 CrPC," he said.
Section 151 CrPC deals with preventive arrests. The encroachers, who were protesting under the auspices of Azad Bharat Vidhik Vaicharik Kranti Satyagrahi, were being evicted on the directions of the Allahabad High Court.
They were believed to be members of splinter group of Baba Jaigurudev sect had had occupied the land on the pretext of 'dharna'. Their demands included "cancellation" of election of President and Prime Minister of India, replacement of existing currency with 'Azad Hind Fauj' currency, sale of diesel at the rate of 60 litres for one rupee and petrol at 40 litres for one rupee.
"Ram Vriksh Yadav, Chandan Bose, Girish Yadav and Rakesh Gupta are the main culprits and leaders of this group and if alive they will be caught by the police," the DGP said, adding the 22 people killed in the violence are yet to be identified.
In Lucknow, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav ordered a probe by the divisional commissioner of Mathura, an official spokesperson said.
The Union Home Minister said he has reviewed the situation in Mathura.
"I have spoken to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pardesh and reviewed the situation in Mathura. I have assured him of all possible help from the Centre.
"I am anguished over the loss of lives in the incident in Mathura. May God give strength to the bereaved families," Rajnath Singh said.
In a communication, the Home Ministry asked the state government to provide a detailed factual report as early as possible on the incident.
Police said some vehicles bearing Madhya Pradesh registration number have been found and they would be probing all angles including if there was Naxalite connection.
"15 cars and 6 motorcycles have been recovered," the DGP said.
"The local people were angry with encroachers and they helped the police. When the rioters were retreating, they were severely beaten up by the public," he said.
The Chief Minister has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 20 lakh to the family of the deceased policemen.
Meanwhile, Governor Ram Naik, who is in Mumbai, sought a detailed report on the matter from the Chief Minister and a proper inquiry to nail the culprits.
Police had alleged that the encroachers had not only used hand grenades but also opened fire from automatic weapons after taking position on tree tops.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who was in Barabanki to launch government schemes and address a rally, said that administration officials held talks several times in the past with the encroachers to convince them to evict the area in the wake of the high court order.
"Police were attacked at the recce stage itself. Officials had spoken to them (encroachers) and given them several warnings, but they stoked violence. It is a serious incident and I have briefed the Union Home Minister," Yadav said.