At least 20 people, including RAF and police personnel, were on Sunday injured and a number of government vehicles damaged in a clash between villagers and police over holding a Mahapanchayat in Khera village in Meerut defying ban orders.
Angry villagers set vehicles on fire after violence erupted in Panchayat at Khera village of Sardhana Tehsil in Meerut, UP. (HT Photo)
The clashes in the western Uttar Pradesh village revived memories of communal violence in nearby Muzaffarnagar earlier in September.
Following three murders of people from two different communities at a village in Muzaffarnagar district, violence had erupted after a mahapanchayat (meeting of village councils).
It had snowballed into riots in which at least 48 people were killed and nearly 50,000 displaced from their homes.
Following the clash in Khera, IG (Law and Order) Rajkumar Vishwakarma told reporters in Lucknow, "When the police tried to prevent the violent mob, 20 persons including 19 policemen - six from Rapid Action Force (RAF) - were injured."
The angry mob, when stopped started pelting stones and damaged nine vehicles of police and administration, he said.
Police used force when the district magistrate and the DIG were surrounded by the mob, secretary home Kamal Saxena said.
Police lobbed tear gas shells, fired rubber bullets and fired in the air too to disperse the mob, he said.
Police said that a large crowed of over 10,000 villagers including women ventured into village Khera through adjoining agricultural land, defying Section 144 imposed by the district authorities.
They were adamant on convening the panchayat but were somehow persuaded by officials to hand over their memorandum without holding the conclave. Trouble started during the process of handing over the charter of demands when a confrontation between villagers and police turned violent, forcing the security personnel to cane the angry mob.
Additional security personnel have been rushed to the villege to prevent a breakdown in the law and order situation.
The Mahapanchayat was called by BJP MLA Sangeet Som's brother Sagar Som and wife Nidhi against slapping of NSA on the MLA in connection with the Muzaffarnagar violence.
"The panchayat was banned by the district administration on September 27 and barricades were put on Khatauli, Budhana, Shamli and Bagpat to check those coming to attend it. However, over 6,000 people managed to reach there through fields," Vishwakarma said. 24 people have been arrested in connection with the clash, he said.
"FIRs will be lodged against organisers of the panchayat. The administration had issued 400 notices yesterday to people after banning the panchayat...Action will also be taken against them and responsibility will be fixed," the IG said.
To a question, Saxena said there was no alert from the Centre regarding holding of the panchayat.
He said notices were served in 24 villages regarding ban on panchayat and it was also advertised that no one should assemble as ban was in force.
He said the situation was under control and police patrolling had been beefed up.
Principal scretary (home) RM Srivastava said strict action will be taken against organisers of the Mahapanchayat.
To a question, he said there was no report of any death in the incident due to police firing.
Meanwhile, Congress and BJP termed the clash in Meerut as failure of the Akhilesh Yadav government.
(With PTI inputs)