Bharat Bandh: A day of violence, rumours, intelligence failure

Incidents of violence in Uttar Pradesh, especially the western parts of the state, during by Dalit groups to protest against the ruling allegedly diluting the SC/ST Act indicates intelligence failure, police officials privy to Monday’s developments said.

Senior officers posted in west UP claimed the Monday’s violence was well-planned and the police were caught off guard in several areas.

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“In Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur and Hapur the policemen fled their outposts when the trouble-makers attacked them. The miscreants were well prepared. They had covered their faces and carried weapons. They came in hordes and set afire shops and vehicles before disappearing in narrow lanes,” an officer posted in a west UP district said on condition of anonymity.

Over 40 policemen were injured in violence in various districts during clashes with protesters.

Another officer said the state police could not anticipate the magnitude of violence.

“This can be gauged from the fact that a meeting of senior police officers was held under the chairmanship of UP DGP OP Singh to review preparations for the protests,” he said.

Denying lack of preparedness on the part of the state administration, principal secretary, home, Arvind Kumar said the government had alerted the SPs of all the 75 districts for Bharat Bandh.

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“The officers were directed to deploy adequate police force at sensitive spots. The violence was planned. The state government has sought reports from all the districts,” he said.

DIG (law and order) Praveen Kumar said rumours were spread in various districts as a large number of protestors hit the streets.

“The police have taken 448 people into custody. We will also probe into the angle of political conspiracy. Large numbers of protestors were armed with illegal weapons. Police will also collect the CCTV footage to zero in on the people involved in violence,” he said.

“Violence was reported from only 10 per cent of the state’s total area while protests were peaceful in the remaining parts of the state,” he added.

As precautionary measures, the state government had sounded statewide high alert and directed the officials of all the districts to monitor social media and take strict action against rumour-mongers.

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Violence spread from Saharanpur district located near Uttarakhand border to Agra near Rajasthan border. Armed miscreants fired in the air, set shops and vehicles afire, looted shops and beat up passersby.

As violence started spreading, the home department directed the DMs and SPs to launch a crack down on miscreants.

“A meeting of influential members of Dalit community was called to urge the protesters to end the agitation. The situation was brought under control by 2 pm,” said the DIG (law and order).