In Adityanath's Raj, Police Officers Pay the Price for Enforcing the Law on Hindutva Mobs

BJP leaders in Saharanpur and Agra are pleased to have managed the transfer of two SSPs who booked Sangh leaders and activists for rioting.

Meerut: Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in Saharanpur and Agra are relieved that the senior superintendents of police of the two districts were transferred early this week. Though the SSP of Saharanpur, Love Kumar, and Agra SSP Pritinder Singh were removed from their current postings as part of a large-scale shuffle in the state police, their transfer by the Adityanath government is seen as a direct fallout of their decision to enforce the law on BJP leaders and workers of RSS affiliates like the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad after they engaged in major incidents of hooliganism in the two districts last week.

Kumar and Singh were removed hours after a delegation of party MPs and MLAs from western UP led by Muzaffarnagar MP Sanjeev Baliyan – a minister in the Centre –  met Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday and complained against the two top cops and reportedly pushed for their removal. Their transfer orders, as part of the large-scale shake up of the police in the state, came on Wednesday.

Kumar had booked members of the ruling BJP including local Member of Parliament Raghav Lakhanpal, for allegedly taking out an illegal procession through a communally sensitive area which led to clashes last week. Lakhanpal allegedly instigated a mob of BJP workers to attack the SSP’s house and and to engage in rioting and arson of public and private properties in Saharanpur.

The BJP procession led by Lakhanpal was taken through a restricted route in Sadak Dhudhli village in Saharanpur to mark the birth anniversary of Ambedkar without police permission and without the agreement of the majority of Dalits in the village – who had already commemorated Ambedkar’s birthday and who saw the move aimed at communally polarising the region ahead of the municipal corporation elections due next month.  The police force led by Kumar did not allow Lakhanpal to carry out the procession, after which the angry MP had publicly announced that he would ensure that Kumar was removed from his post.

“Had he (Love Kumar) been efficient, he would have raided the houses from which stones were hurled against us and would have allowed our procession inside the village. The SSP is inefficient and I assure you that he will be removed,” Lakhanpal had said in his brief speech to the agitated mob last Wednesday –after which the mob went and attacked the SSP’s house and broke the nameplate and furniture. Kumar’s family was allegedly terrorised by the mob attack.

In the aftermath of the communal clash, Kumar had arrested more than two dozen people including leaders of the BJP and several members of the minority community who engaged in pelting stones on the BJP procession. The arrests of senior BJP leaders like Virendar Pundir, who was allegedly part of the rioting mob, had led to anger among local party leaders and the demand for action against the police.

Days after Kumar’s transfer, Lakhanpal confirmed his meeting with Adityanath while talking to The Wire on Saturday.  “Yes, we met the CM and apprised him of the situation in Saharanpur and the role played by the SSP. As I said before, the SSP and the district magistrate, Mohammad Shafqat Kamal [ who has also been transferred] were remnants of the Samajwadi Party government and had a particular bent of mind. Now there is  peace in Saharanpur,” Lakhanpal said.

After Kumar was transferred as SSP, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Lakhanpal met local BJP leaders in Saharanpur jail and assured them that he would not allow any further police action against them. He said that he would not the  arrest of any other BJP worker in the rioting and arson case in which the local police had booked over 200 people. Interestingly, the case has been handed over to the crime branch.  Rajeev Gumbar, the former BJP MLA from Saharanpur who was also booked along with Lakhanpal for arson and rioting and who had to leave for Lucknow due to fear of being arrested by the police, told The Wire on Saturday that local BJP workers were relieved by the decision of the government to remove Kumar. He said that since Kumar was shifted, the police has stopped making any more raids to arrest more than a hundred BJP workers who were allegedly involved in the cases of rioting and arson.

“A large number of our workers had left Saharanpur and some of them had gone underground. They are coming back now. We are relieved. Now our priority will be to get our fellow workers out of jail and also get the false cases slapped on them withdrawn,” Gumbar said.

Like Love Kumar, Pritinder Singh in Agra attracted the ire of BJP leaders for taking action against Hindutva leaders and activists. He had booked senior RSS leaders and hundreds of Bajrang Dal and VHP workers after a large mob attacked Sadar Bazaar police station and assaulted police men on April 22. They had barged inside the police station and tried to open the gates of the lock-up to release five Bajrang Dal workers who had earlier been arrested on charges of assaulting Muslim grocery shop owners. They also set a police vehicle on fire while demanding that the FIR against the arrested men be withdrawn and that cases be filed instead against the Muslim shopkeepers.

In the aftermath of the attack, Singh moved against the culprits and arrested 14 Bajrang Dal workers. But before he could finish probing the incident – one of the major incidents of violence since Adityanath took over as CM – he was removed. The notification of his removal came later but local BJP leaders were aware about it on the morning ofApril 26 itself when they met deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who was visiting Agra. He had asked the delegation of angry BJP, Bajrang Dal and VHP leaders not to worry and to “read the newspaper tomorrow morning”.  Singh has not been assigned a new posting yet.

Interestingly, after the BJP leaders met Yogi Adityanath, the probe into the attack on the police stations by Hindutva groups, was taken from the Agra police and was handed over to Mathura police.

The two incidents of attacks on police officials in Agra and Saharanpur led the state Indian Police Service Association to express concern about the increasing number of incidents of the police being targeted by mobs of Hindutva hardliners and local BJP leaders. Former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had earlier slammed the Yogi government and said that “people with saffron shirts have gotten the licence to attack the police”. The police, he said, had never been treated this way since Independence.