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‘This must stop’, says SC on Kanwariya violence, vandalism by protesters

Demanding that responsibility be fixed on officials concerned, the Supreme Court called the siutation grave as it cited the vandalism during the Kanwariya yatra and protests against the movie Padmavat.

india Updated: Aug 10, 2018 22:57 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
Supreme Court,Kanwariya yatra,Vandalism
A two-wheeler sent on fire by angry locals after a skirmish with Kanwariyas in Sohna town in July 2017. On Tuesday, a group of kanwariyas vandalised a car in New Delhi after it had allegedly brushed past one of the kanwariyas. (HT File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Friday came down hard on “grave incidents of vandalism” of private and public properties by various groups across the country, particularly in light of the fortnight-long Kanwar Yatra which led to a spate of violence in parts of western Uttar Pradesh and the National Capital Region, and said it would not wait for the government to amend the law.

A three-judge bench, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, warned that it would issue strict guidelines on the issue.

The court was responding to India’s top law officer, attorney general KK Venugopal seeking the top court’s intervention in fixing responsibility on authorities such as the superintendent of police of an area in cases of vandalism and rioting by protesters and fringe elements.

Venugopal told the court that the police machinery had failed to stop acts of mob violence. “Every week, there is rioting in the country, sometime in the name of Maratha agitation, unrest over SC/ST judgment. Nothing is being done. No FIR (first information report) is filed even though the incidents take place in front of the eyes of policeman. Nobody is named,” he said.

The judges gave specific instances from the Kanwar Yatra. “They block off half of the national highway between Varanasi and Allahabad and it takes over five hours to do reach from Allahabad to Varanasi,” justice DY Chandrachud said.

The Kanwar Yatra is an annual pilgrimage of devotees of Shiva, who march to Haridwar, Gaumukh, Gangotri and Sultanganj to fetch ‘holy water’ from the Ganga, and then walk with the water in pots, called ‘kanwars’.

Incidents of wanton violence and random road blockades by several angry kanwariyas were reported from Uttar Pradesh and parts of Delhi-NCR over this week -- including the destruction of a car in Delhi’s Moti Nagar and attacking a police van in Bulandshahr — while they were extended floral welcomes by some administrative functionaries and police officers. The man eventually arrested for the Moti Nagar incident, Rahul aka Billa, was described by police as a “drug addict with a criminal record” who was out on bail.

The Court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Kodungallur Film Society, which had sought framing of guidelines to deter acts of violence and hooliganism carried out in the name of public protests. This petition was filed during the release of the movie Padmaavat, against which Rajput groups, including the Karni Sena, had launched nationwide protests and resorted to vandalism. “Will any civilized country tolerate this ? We must fix responsibility on the police to act fast in these situations,” Venugopal told the court.

CJI Misra agreed at the disturbing state of affairs. “You cannot touch third party property. You (mob) can burn your own home if you want!” he said. The court reserved judgment in the case and said it would pass an order soon.

First Published: Aug 10, 2018 14:46 IST