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Four BJP legislators and hundreds of party workers were arrested on Friday after at least six police and administrative officials were injured in clashes over holding a mahapanchayat in Kanth town of Moradabad district in Uttar Pradesh.
The clashes began after the BJP called for a mahapanchayat -- in defiance of state orders banning it – over the removal of a loudspeaker from a Dalit temple in Kanth town. To disperse the crowd, the police lathicharged and fired bullets in the air.
The police also detained BJP MPs Satyapal Singh (Sambhal), Kanwar Singh Tanwar (Amroha), Nepal Singh (Rampur) and Sardhana MLA Sangeet Som – who was an accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots -- along with hundreds of workers and party officials, who were on their way to Kanth. "We have been arrested and kept in makeshift jail of police lines," said Ritesh Gupta, BJP`s city president in Moradabad.
The stone-pelting by BJP workers and ensuing violence left the district magistrate with severe head injuries. The police, however, succeeded in pushing back the mob from the railway tracks, where hundreds had obstructed the way for hours, affecting train schedules.
Protesters, however, claimed that the police hurled tear gas shells and didn't allow people to come out of their houses for hours. "It is ridiculous that people can`t worship in Akhilesh Yadav's regime," said Sunil Bharala, a BJP leader.
He said that Hindu Jagran Manch city president Rahul Dwivedi and a few Manch workers were arrested from the railway station where clashes continued between police and villagers for hours.
Earlier in the day, the police had fortified Kanth to foil the BJP attempts at organising a mahapanchayat to seek people's opinion on the ongoing week-long movement against removal of the loudspeaker. Mahapanchayats had played a critical role in inflaming communal tensions during the Muzaffarnagar riots last year, which killed at least 63 and rendered thousands homeless.
A compromise had been finalised between the two sides on Thursday evening in the presence of BJP's Moradabad MP Sarvesh Singh and ruling Samajwadi Party's Kanth MLA Aneesrrehman. Agitated leaders and workers of the Hindu Jagran Manch, however, refused to accept the compromise late Thursday night. Blaming Singh for bowing down under pressure of the rival group, they burnt his effigy in protest.