Mathura police personnel who had gone to clear Jawahar Bagh here of protesters, reportedly members of a cult, were caught off guard about the kind of weapons they possessed and their “motivation levels”. The first batch of about 200 cops, acting on the Allahabad High Court’s order to clear the premises of the “illegal occupants”, literally walked into an ambush. The protesters had virtually turned the huge garden into their “own property”.
Several visibly upset police personnel who took part in Friday’s operation and with whom The Sunday Guardian spoke to, said there was an intelligence failure.
“We had no idea of their motivation and the kinds of weapons they would use. Initially, a loose group of 200 policemen, led by the city SP Mukul Dwivedi and Inspector Santosh Yadav and other senior officials had gone to the ground. Most of the constables who were accompanying them had lathis and very few were carrying guns as we did not expect any major confrontation. It was just like a regular anti-encroachment drive that we carry out. However, as soon as the JCB machine broke down a portion of the wall of the garden, the encroachers became agitated and rushed towards us with lathis and started firing at us. Amid this commotion, SP sahab fell down and his helmet slipped from his head after which he was beaten with sticks, mostly on his head. Five of our constables who were surrounding him, too, were beaten. My hand has been broken at the arms joint and I am still having concussions due to blows from sticks that I received,” an official said. Inspector Santosh Yadav had died on the spot, while injured SP Dwivedi later died in hospital.
The police have so far arrested around 350 encroachers and named 2,500 people in the FIR, most of whom are unknown.
A visibly shaken Pradip Kumar, the station house officer of Sadar Thana, under whose jurisdiction Jawahar Bagh comes, said that there was no idea about the kind of weapons the protesters might have. “We had gone there to talk to them and ask them to clear the ground as this was the strategy that the seniors had decided in the meeting that we had before we went there. We had no idea that they would react like this. The protesters beat every policemen that they could lay their hands on and fired at us while sitting on specially erected machans that they had built on the trees which gave them a good vantage point,” he recalled. Kumar, who was at the front row when the police force entered the ground, sustained a broken elbow and deep bruises on his shoulders and other arm after he was beaten by a group of encroachers with sticks.
Kumar said that SP Dwivedi would never allow any of his colleagues to join a police party until they wore a bullet proof jacket and a helmet, and did the same on Friday too. “On Friday, I could not wear the helmet and the jacket as I was in hurry, but he pushed me to wear it. If I did not have helmet on my head, I would not have survived,” he said.