The body of the ‘Satyagrahis’ leader, Ramvriksh Yadav, was cremated on Monday as serious allegations of political patronage flew thick and fast.
Most everyone has wondered how a shabbily clad man could simply walk in from Sagar in Madhya Pradesh with 100 odd men and occupy the 280 acre of the Horticulture department for 27 months. But, even as investigations look into these sensitive questions, the BJP has squarely blamed public works department minister Shivpal Yadav, Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger brother, for it. The minister has vehemently denied this, challenging his opponents to show evidence.
“Shivpal Yadav was actively involved in appointing Pankaj Yadav as successor of Jai Gurudev, which is an open fact. It is at the behest of Shivpal that no action was taken against Ram Vriksha for more than two years,” alleged IPS officer Amitabh Thakur.
Thakur, who has been at loggerheads with the SP government, accused Shivpal of protecting Ramvriksh.
“I do not have any proof. But everything is in public domain. How can a person occupy a government land for more than two years without patronage from a politician,” he questioned.
The spiritual leader in question – Jai Gurudev – was based in Mathura and passed away in 2012. He is believed to have left behind an empire worth over Rs 10,000 crore, apart from 250 luxury cars – all supposedly gifted by his devotees. He also left behind a palatial ashram in Mathura and properties in several cities in northern India.
Ramvriksh had joined the Gurudev’s cult, even contesting elections on his party, Doordarshi Party’s ticket. However, following Gurudev’s death, as disciples struggled to claim the leader’s legacy, Ramvriksh was ousted from the ashram.
It was after this that he moved to Mathura, taking over Jawahar Bagh and raising bizarre demands such as doing away with a Prime Minister and President, and replacing the currency system with a ‘Azad Hind’ currency. He even formed his own cult, the Swadheen Bharat Subhash Sena, which claimed to be true followers of Subhash Chandra Bose.
Taking over Jawahar Bagh
Back in 2014, when Ramvriksh initially reached Jawahr Bagh, he had sought permission for a dharna for 2-3 days. He was accompanied by about 150 activists, said Narendra Singh, leader of Jawahar Bagh Sangursh Samiti which opposed the goings-on in the park.
“Earlier the site for such protests used to be one near Collectorate but the then District Magistrate shifted it to Jawahar Bagh, facilitating Ramvriksh’s entry into the Bagh,” he said.
He initially demanded the death certificate of Baba Jai Gurudev. When it was furnished, he alleged that it was a fake certificate. He then began demanding the death certificate of Netaji Bose, and reducing the cost of 40 litres petrol and 60 litres of diesel to Rs 1, apart from bringing in Azad Hind Sena currency to replace the existing one, Narendra said.
“How come those occupying Jawahar Bagh attained ‘aadhar card’, gas connections, ration cards and had regular supply of food and other material,” the leader said, insinuating that Ramvriksh was politically protected.
The district horticulture officer, Mukesh Kumar, also filed an FIR against the ‘satyagrahis’ for encroaching upon government land at the Sadar Bazar police station on June 7, 2014.
Later, more FIRs were filed for obstruction of government work and damaging property, but no action was taken.
In May 2015, advocate Vijay Pal Singh Tomar had filed a Public Interest Litigation in Allahabad high court seeking that Jawahar Bagh be vacated. The court had even passed an order to that effect.
“On January 22, 2016, the application for contempt proceedings was moved and the high court issued notices to local administration. However, with panchayat elections on, force could not be made available for the same,” said Tomar, who also alleged that Ramvriksh was receiving political patronage.
Former minister in state cabinet and BJP leader Ravi Kant Garg also accused that a minister in the state cabinet was responsible for ‘providing cover’ to the deceased Sena leader.
Reign of terror
Growing concerns emerged as Ramvriksh allegedly began threatening locals around Jawahar Bagh to vacate their houses, a local journalist said.
“He even asked these residents, who were shown baton if they climbed on rooftops, not to look towards their area… There were plans to lease out Jawahar Bagh for 99 years to Ram Vriksh but the court’s order came in between,” said the journalist who wished to remain anonymous.
Police had received several complaints against those occupying the park, including dissenters being beaten up.
However, as Ramvriksh grew from strength to strength – police claimed they recovered a cache of sophisticated arms after clearing out the squatter last week – it appears the issue remained a local problem, with no echo in Lucknow, including the Legislative Assembly.
Police attempting to tie-up loose ends now say that Ramvriksh’s network was fairly spread out.
A statewide search for his followers has been launched. Sources claimed that hundreds had escaped during the clashes that broke last week when police attempted to evict the squatters.
Meanwhile, political parties are in a slug fest as they attempt to gain traction from the incident.
BJP leader and MP from Mathura, Hema Malini demanded to know why the issue was not taken up by the MLAs from Mathura – two from the Rashtriya Lok Dal, two from the Bahujan Samaj Party and one from Congress.
Denying that they kept mum, Congress’ MLA Pradeep Mathur said he had repeatedly taken up the issue with various officials but no action was taken. He further said it would be unfair to any one leader but called for a thorough inquiry into the matter.