Police arrested four men on Tuesday and booked 28 people for murder and rioting in connection with the violence that roiled Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr a day before and left a police inspector and a local resident dead.
Additional director general of police (law and order) Anand Kumar identified those arrested as Chaman, Ram, Satish (only first names were given) and Ashish Chauhan, and said the prime suspect in the Monday morning’s violence, triggered by allegations of cow slaughter, is a man named Yogesh Raj.
The ADG said three others were taken into custody for interrogation and that raids were underway across the state to arrest Raj and others involved in the violence.
“Those arrested were found to be leading the crowd after being identified in a video. About 40-50 others, who are unidentified, were involved in the incident and police is confident of identifying them with the video evidence,” he added.
Police refused to confirm Raj’s political affiliations, but the regional coordinator of the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Balraj Singh Dungar, said that Raj was the convenor of the Bulandshahr unit of the Dal. “We are with our leaders and workers,” said Dungar.
The violence began around 11am on Monday after protests against alleged cow slaughter spun out of control.
Mobs of so-called cow vigilantes went on a three-hour rampage, clashing with security forces and setting vehicles and a police post on fire in Bulandshahr, 130 km from Delhi. Five officials were injured in the scuffle.
In the melee, inspector Subodh Kumar Singh, who was part of the initial investigation into the 2015 murder of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri over allegations of cow slaughter, and a 21-year-old man, identified only as Sumit, died. Singh was first injured in the stone pelting by the mob and shot later, said the ADG. Sumit was part of the mob. The ADG also confirmed that the police had fired in the air to disperse the mob.
The list of 28 accused include the names of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Syana unit youth wing president Shikhar Agarwal and the VHP’s ex-Syana town president Upendra Raghav. Syana is a hamlet near Bulandshahr.
BJP’s western Uttar Pradesh president Ashwini Tyagi expressed his unhappiness over the inclusions of the names of Bajrang Dal, VHP and BJP leaders and demanded a fair probe into the incident, blaming the police for the violence. “As per my reports, they [political leaders] were not involved in violence and police should have included their names after investigation,” he said.
The VHP condemned the violence but said the police needed to carry out a thorough probe and demanded action against the alleged cow slaughter. “Bajrang Dal members were at the police station complaining against cow slaughter when violence broke out. Why did the police not take action against those who had illegally gathered and were slaughtering a cow?” said Vinod Bansal, spokesperson of the VHP.
The ADG said two first information reports (FIRs) had been lodged so far, one under the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act related to the alleged recovery of cow carcasses and the second for the attack on the police force. No arrests have been made in connection with the alleged recovery of cow carcasses. Cow slaughter is banned in Uttar Pradesh.
A special investigation team (SIT) is probing the incident, including the discovery of the carcasses and the identity of those who may have been involved in killing the animals. The SIT will also probe the circumstances under which inspector Singh was cornered and shot, the ADG added.
In Bulandshahr, emotions ran high even as the police imposed section 144, prohibiting the assembly of more than four persons, and came down hard on isolated skirmishes. Singh’s relatives demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.
“My husband was killed in a planned manner as part of a conspiracy. If the guilty go unpunished, I will commit suicide by shooting myself at the Bulandshahr police lines,” said Rajni Rathore, Singh’s widow. Amarjeet, Sumit’s father, demanded a payment of Rs 50 lakh, and a sub-inspector’s job for his other son Vineet.
In Mahaw village, residents blamed the Bajrang Dal and other organisations for the violence, saying the situation was under control until the right-wing workers arrived at the scene.
“After the cow carcasses were found, villagers were satisfied with a written complaint and agreed to end the matter. But suddenly, a mob led by the Bajrang Dal arrived on the scene… villagers and police tried to convince them to not escalate tension but they paid no heed,” said Rajkumar, a farmer who is a former village chief.