The locals of Mathura town are extremely unhappy with the way some Uttar Pradesh officials continued to turn a blind eye towards the encroachers of Jawahar Bagh, a government maintained park spread across 280 acres in the heart of the town. These encroachers, who were fewer than 500 in number when they first sought the permission to stage a protest at the Jawahar Bagh on 14 March 2014, had crossed 3,000, as per local estimates, when they were finally evicted on Friday. Locals say that these encroachers were running a parallel administration inside the park and had banned the entry of locals there.
The encroachers were mostly from poor economic backgrounds and consisted of men, women and children from various parts of the country including Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. They had started a rally from Sagar district of Madhya Pradesh and were on their way to New Delhi under the leadership of Rambriksha Yadav, a resident of Ghazipur, when they halted at Mathura.
However, in the last two and a half year, they unleashed a reign of hooliganism in the area surrounding Jawahar Bagh as a result of which at least 15 cases were filed by different individuals against them for assault and public nuisance. But until last week, no concrete action was taken by the local officials to evict them.
There are important offices and establishments in the one kilometer radius of Rambagh including the campus of Mathura Army Cantonment, the residence of the Senior Superintendent of Police, Reserve Police lines, Judges’ Colony and the district court, but even then the encroachers, whom the locals described as Naxals, were not made answerable to law despite posing a grave security threat.
“For the last two years, we have been asking the police to remove them, but our words fell on deaf ears. These encroachers were living in their own world and had no respect for law and society and would regularly get into fights with us. One week before their eviction, 30-40 of them had climbed the garden wall and entered the court premises and beat us and a few advocates for blocking their way,” M.S. Rawat, a stamp vendor at the district court said.
After the eviction process, policemen were patrolling the streets of Mathura on motorbikes and jeeps. Rambagh itself had been made out of bounds, but the huge trees inside the garden, which had turned black and leafless after the encroachers set them on fire during the police action, stood testimony to the mayhem that had taken place between the five-hour period of 4.30 pm and 9.30 pm when the police tried to enter the park.
The anger against some state officials in the way the entire situation was handled in which two senior police officers including SP, City, Mukul Dwivedi and Station Officer Santosh Kumar Yadav, were killed, was hard to miss as people cutting across professions and age were jostling with each other to vent their anger in front of the media.
“The people of Mathura were disturbed by these encroachers and yet the state government did not do anything until now to remove them and it was only after a PIL was filed in the Allahabad High Court that the district administration entered the garden. You can imagine our anger by the fact that as soon as the news that two policemen had been killed reached us, a huge number of locals, with sticks and weapons in their hands, gathered at the perimetre of the garden and thrashed every single of the protestors they could lay their hands on,” said Sushil Kumar, who was drinking tea at a stall adjacent to Rambagh.
According to the locals, in March 2014, a delegation led by the leader of these encroachers, Rambrikha Yadav had met the then district magistrate of Mathura, Vishal Chouhan and sought his permission to stage a protest saying that Baba Jai Gurudev, their self styled godman, who died in 2012, leaving behind property worth Rs 1200 crore, was not dead but alive. Their other demands included making all the documents related to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose public, scrapping of the electoral process to appoint President and Prime Minister, making available 60 litres of diesel and 50 litres of petrol for Re 1 each and replacement of the Indian currency with what they called the “Azad Hind Fauj” currency.
“These people had created a sort of small country inside the park and did not allow any of the locals to enter it. They would practise the firing of weapons and use of sticks and all this was known to the officials, but they did not act. If they acted earlier, then we would not have lost two of the best policemen and human beings we had,” said Ramesh Sharma, an advocate.