Mathura: Of Godmen, Politics and Big Money
NEW DELHI: Mathura was waiting to happen. The filthy potpourri of godmen,politicians, rivalries over land and big money was expected by all---except those in power---to explode. How and when were the only questions, that were answered today when finally the police moved to vacate acres of land of encroachers, and found themselves in war with trained men with explosives, AK47s and a determination to kill.
Two top policemen were killed with one being shot in the head. 20 others died in the gunbattle. The police that went in almost 18 months after a Allahabad High Court verdict ordering the Jawahar Bagh land to be cleared of the encroachers, seemed to have little to no idea that the men of the Bharat Vidhi Vaicharik Kranti Satyagrahi and Swadheen Bharat Subhash Sena were so well armed despite squatting on government land in the heart of Mathura city.
The Mathura saga can be traced back to the wealthy godman Baba Jai Gurudev (Tulsidas) who died in 2012 at the claimed age of 116 years. This man, with a huge following like most godmen in India, sat over a huge estate of land and money conservatively estimated at Rs 12,000 crores. This did not include the price of the hundreds of acres of land now with this ashram. He was a controversial character, was arrested during the Emergency, but such was his perceived clout that later former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi went to visit him, and apologise for his arrest. He floated a political party called Doordarshi Party and although he set up vegetarian candidates in different states, including Gujarat at one time, he was decimated. He folded this shop in 1997 and focused on his godman activities that brought him fame and wealth.
His ashram started expanding, into government land. But such was the godman’s clout that successive government in Lucknow looked the other way, except when individual politicians visited him for darshan. Farmers filed complaints with the district magistrate about lands being forcefully taken over by the ahsram. The Uttar Pradesh Industrial body (UPSIDC) filed cases in the court alleging that the ashram had encroached on hundreds of acres of industrial government land. The Archaeological Survey of India claimed in cases it filed, that his men had damaged historical monuments while searching for artefacts, and had not handed these over to the ASI.
The driver turned godman Pankaj Yadav
The complaints barely touched the Guru who kept adding to his wealth. And his power in the process. After his death in 2012 his driver, one Pankaj Yadav, succeeded him and of course his wealth. To ensure a smooth transition, Samajwadi party supremo Mulayam Singhs brother Shivpal Yadav was present at the spot. Yadav replaced the Guru as can be seen from the photograph above, and started holding the congregations. The ashram continues to prosper with political patronage that has ensured that the assets---of acquired and encroached upon land---remain intact.
Meanwhile a rival group, insulted and dejected at being left out of the power and wealth circle, decided to hold a protest meeting at Jawahar Bagh. This was reportedly led by Ram Vriksha Yadav who has been casually named by the police now after the violence in Mathura, with the aside that they know little about him. This Yadav, in fact, is a recognised leader of the so called rival sect and has over the last years according to sources, been close to leaders of both the SP and some say---although this has still to be confirmed---to sections of the BJP. It is reported that he is being supported from within the Samajwadi party by Mulayam Singh and his other and more influential brother Ram Gopal Yadav. However, these reports remain unconfirmed as do those of BJP links with local politicians and journalists making these connections at their level.
The so called encroachers had over the past months and years settled down in Jawahar Bagh, prime property, with not a single political leader or political party voicing any objections. This had become home to them, as is now publicly evident with the explosion of the many gas cylinders being used at the venue. Given the court verdict, the state finally had to order the police to act but all were unprepared for the huge resistance with the cadres climbing up on trees to fire at the cops, using AK47 assault weapons and explosives.
In scenes reminiscent of a Bollywood blockbuster the police took the brunt of the attack with the Superintendent of Police being hit on the head with a stone. He died in hospital. A Station House Officer was shot in the head. The sect members used daggers, knives, stones, explosives, guns to fight back the police. About 400 odd were finally arrested. "These activists were followers of Baba Jai Gurudeo and have named their outfit as ‘Swadheen Bharat Vidhik Satyagrahi’. They have occupied hundreds of acres of land at Jawahar Bagh on the pretext of holding a ‘dharna’ since more than two years. Even after several notices were served to them, they were not ready to leave the premises,” Rajesh Kumar, District Magistrate, Mathura, was quoted as saying.
A couple of attempts to evict them from the land after the initial court order had failed. This time the police was more determined, having no choice, but paid a price for the build up of weapons that was allowed over the past 2 years. Sources said that the pretext of being followers of Subhas Chandra Bose, and the slew of demands such as abolish President and Prime Ministers elections (whatever that means) was just a cover up for the land grab.
Currently all political parties are blaming each other for the violence, and for the patronage of these men in both the official ashram and in Jawahar Bagh. However, the state government under Akhilesh Yadav is taking the brunt of the attack with no one being able to explain how this encroachment and the stockpiling of sophisticated arms was allowed in the first place. In fact the Chief Minister has said that he did not even know of this, even as BJP MP Hema Malini busy in a shoot first said she would visit the city if she had to, and then questioned the SP for inaction.