The violence in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura that left 24 people dead exposed again the Samajwadi Party government’s biggest weakness in the assembly polls early next year: The state’s dismal law-and-order situation.
Opposition parties clamoured to attack the Akhilesh Yadav government with the BJP alleging the group of squatters in Mathura’s Jawahar Bagh – who allegedly shot dead two senior police officers – had the protection of the ruling party.
But the SP cautioned against playing politics with the issue.
BSP supremo Mayawati demanded the resignation of the SP government and demanded a judicial inquiry, holding the state administration responsible for the “unfortunate and painful” incident.
“After the Mathura incident, everybody in UP is talking about Behenji’s shahshan (Mayawati’s rule). When she was at the helm, all these criminals who enjoy political patronage had gone into hiding,” a senior BSP leader told HT on the phone from Lucknow.
The Congress’ reaction was guarded with chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala asking the SP government to address the situation and asserting that it was not the time “to score political brownie points”. The Congress is still undecided whether it will contest the state elections alone or with a partner.
The clashes erupted in the heart of Mathura late on Thursday when a police team reached Jawahar Bagh to remove squatters from the Swadhin Bharat Vidhik Satyagrah following a court order. But the 3,000-odd encroachers allegedly opened fire on the police, sparking off violence in which a superintendent of police was killed and over 100 people injured.
The incident came on top of a string of low-intensity riots across the state and the mob lynching of Mohammad Ikhlaq last year over rumours that he slaughtered a calf – incidents that have given opposition parties ammunition to attack the SP government as being lax on law-and-order.
The sharpest attack came from the BJP that is hoping to replicate its bumper Lok Sabha electoral success – it won 71 of the state’s 80 seats -- in the assembly polls. “The main conspirator in the case has full protection of the Samajwadi Party. Policemen were sent with their hands tied and this is why two of them died,” said national secretary Shrikant Sharma in Mathura, alleging “lawlessness” in the state.
He was referring to alleged links between the squatting cult’s chief Ram Vriksha Yadav and the ruling party.
Ram Vriksha Yadav was a disciple of religious leader Jai Gurudev – who was said to be close to the SP – but the duo fell out before the spiritual guru’s death.
Sharma termed the killing of policemen as “height of anarchy” and said criminals were “highly-motivated” because of their “protection” by the ruling party – the reason for about 900 cases of attacks on police personnel under the SP rule.
But ruling party sources denied any links with Ram Vriksha Yadav with senior Uttar Pradesh minister Shivpal Singh Yadav saying there should be no politics over the deaths.
“The police were attacked at the recce stage itself. Officials had spoken to them (encroachers) and given the several warnings, but they stoked violence. It is a serious incident and I have briefed the Union home minister,” said chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
The Congress also denounced the BJP’s attack, saying it was more important to ensure peace than play politics over the dead.
“The BJP should remember that instead of playing politics over dead, the important thing is to ensure peace is restored, that people who have occupied government land are punished, murderers are brought to book and Akhilesh government wakes up from its slumber and takes decisive action,” said Surjewala.