Following the death of 24 people, including two senior police officers, in clashes between the police and armed encroachers in Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, 136 persons have been arrested.
UP DGP Javed Ahmed confirmed the number of arrests and casualties during a press conference adding that 23 policemen had been hospitalized.
Superintendent of Police (City) Mukul Dwivedi, SHO of the Farah police station, Santosh Yadav, and Pradeep Bhatnagar, Commissioner, Agra Division were among those killed.
The deaths resulted from clashes that broke out during an anti-encroachment drive being conducted on the directions of the Allahabad High Court to clear hundreds of acres of government land in the Jawahar Bagh area of Mathura. The land had been encroached upon by activists of a religious group called Azad Bharat Vidhik Vaicharik Kranti Satyagrahi.
The activists used not only hand grenades but also opened fire from automatic weapons after taking position on tree tops, DM Rajesh Kumar had said. A huge cache of arms and ammunition were also recovered.
Police said some vehicles bearing Madhya Pradesh registration plates have been found.
With the situation in Mathura remaining tense, DGP Javed Ahmed and Principal Secretary (Home) Debashish Panda have rushed to the spot.
According to PTI, over two years ago, activists of a splinter group of the followers of Baba Jai Gurudeo had occupied hundreds of acres of land in Jawahar Bagh on the pretext of a ‚Äėdharna‚Äô.
Their demands included ‚Äúcancellation‚ÄĚ of the election of President and Prime Minister of India, replacement of existing currency with ‚ÄėAzad Hind Fauj‚Äô currency, sale of diesel at the rate of 60 litres for one rupee and petrol at the rate of 40 litres for one rupee.
The High Court had, acting on a PIL, directed the authorities to vacate the land.
In April, the Mathura district administration had issued a notice to the protesters asking them to vacate the land.
The land falls under the Horticultural Department of the UP government, and earlier attempts by its officials to evict the people had failed.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who spoke to UP CM Akhilesh Yadav, expressed anguish over the loss of lives and assured all necessary help to the state government.
Spoke to UP CM Shri @yadavakhilesh and reviewed the situation in Mathura. I have also assured him of all possible help from the Centre.‚ÄĒ Rajnath Singh (@BJPRajnathSingh) June 3, 2016
Anguished over the loss of lives in the incidents of violence in Mathura. May God gives strength to the bereaved families to bear the loss‚ÄĒ Rajnath Singh (@BJPRajnathSingh) June 3, 2016
In Lucknow, the CM on Friday ordered a probe by the Divisional Commissioner of Mathura and also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 20 lakh to the family of the deceased policemen.
Meanwhile, Mathura MP Hema Malini expressed shock and anguish over the incident and asked why the UP police "did not" take action in the matter during the last two years.
"It is very sad and I was very, very shocked that policemen and people lost their lives. For the last two years I had heard that they had occupied land," the BJP MP said.
"Uttar Pradesh government has to be made accountable for this. It is answerable. I will ask the Chief Minister about it and they should have looked into the matter two years back‚Ä¶ Why this kind of thing has happened now? I will write to the Centre as well," she further said.
(With inputs from PTI)