Mathura residents are upset with the killing of two senior police officers during an anti-encroachment drive in the city’s sprawling Jawahar Bagh with little sympathy for the 20-odd squatters who also died in the violence late on Thursday.
The death of superintendent of police Mukul Dwivedi generated waves of sympathy with residents recalling his long association with the city.
“There were many houses where food was not cooked last night due to the demise of Dwivedi. The whole city was in tears,” said Puneet Sharma, a local resident.
Sources said local residents applauded the police after the force drove out the squatters late on Thursday and treated injured security personnel as heroes.
“Dwivedi was gem of a person and a daring police officer who led from the front but had to pay the price for it as he entered Jawahar Bagh without much force,” shared Dhananjay Kumar.
But as news of the violence at Jawahar Bagh spread, residents appeared angry with the so-called satyagrahis – the encroachers who belonged to a secretive religious cult.
Local residents said the squatters used to threaten and attack people and had recently assaulted a group of lawyers and government staff for opposing them.
“There was growing resentment against these occupants of Jawahar Bagh and it was beyond comprehension as to how they survived despite the court passing orders for their eviction,” said Sher Singh, a local.
The 3,000 people who were squatting in Jawahar Bagh – a large public park in the heart of the city with government offices circling it -- for the past two years claimed to be true followers of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Police said the violence was triggered when the encroachers fired upon security personnel unprovoked.
Balbir Singh, a local resident, demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry in “all this mess” created by encroachers. “These so-called ‘satyagrahi’ were having an empire of themselves in midst of city for years,” he said.
Other residents said the squatters set up tailoring, sweets and ration shops inside the park and had become a self-contained unit. “All this was happening with the knowledge of the administration and police,” Balbir said.
Residents also said that many of the squatters were beaten up by local men while trying to flee from Jawahar Bagh on Thursday night.
“I was passing by the railway bridge when I saw a group of residents kicking a man lying on road. On inquiry, I was told he was one of the encroachers of Jawahar Bagh and was running to save himself from police action,” said Mukesh Sharma.