KARHAL (Mainpuri): Senior police officers who dashed to Mainpuri soon after violence broke out on Friday after a mob tried to lynch a group of Muslims charged with the killing of a cow have told TOI that prima facie some right-wing organisations seem to have been involved in fomenting the riot.
Agra DIG Lakshmi Singh, who is leading the investigations, said, “A name has cropped up in the probe. He belongs to a right wing organization. The man is supposed to have organised such a huge crowd within no time. His name is there in the FIR as well. Investigations are on track and soon we will have solid proof versus those who started this. They will be behind bars.”
Police officials in action after villagers vandalized properties and resorted to arson in Mainpuri district on Friday. (PTI Photo)
What has surprised both police and the administration is that it was the son of the Hindu man who had actually given the dead cow to the Muslims to be skinned who started the rumour that the animal had been killed. Within moments of the four Muslim men being spotted skinning the cow, hundreds had converged at the spot. While two of the Muslim men managed to flee, two were caught and would have been lynched had police not arrived in time to save them.
A top-ranking IPS officer involved with the investigations said, “Numerous in the mob were wearing saffron stoles. They raised slogans like ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and ‘Gai humari mata hai’. The mob targeted only those shops that are owned by a particular community.” Incidentally, some cops TOI spoke to claimed Numerous in the mob started removing their saffron stoles when police resorted to lathi charge to quell the rampaging crowds.
Most of the 22 who have been arrested are men in the age group of 18-25 and were identified on the basis of video footages. Police officers further revealed that certain texts and WhatsApp messages were widely circulated prior to the violence. Cops have seized dozens of mobile phones from those who have been held and also those who are being quizzed. “We are looking at the videos circulating on local WhatsApp groups, on Facebook and Twitter,” an officer said.
Many local residents, too, said the violence looked like it had been “planned for weeks” and that a larger game was at play. They said they were surprised at how quickly a mob had gathered, pushing police on the back foot. Some cops were even heard pleading with the mob not to attack them.
“We were actually cornered when it all started,” said Dilip Singh, SHO at Karhal in Mainpuri. “We reached the spot at 8.30 am, took the two men accused of skinning the cow in our custody and appealed to the mob to disperse. But they demanded that the two be left to them so that the public cold hand them justice. We were helpless. It’s fortunate that additional forces arrived on time.”
The mob, however, thrashed the cops and pelted stones at them. Numerous policemen, who were rushed to the Karhal police station, were seen with bandages on their face, hands and head. Stones also hit SSP Rakesh Shankar and DIG Lakshmi Singh.
What police found shocking was that Numerous in the crowd were armed with guns and responded to firing by the cops, who also hit the mob with tear gas shells, with their own return-fire. “It’s scary how these men got arms. They fired Numerous rounds in answer (to the police firing). This cannot happen instantly. The mob was prepared and working on a pre-planned strategy,” said a senior cop.
SSP Shankar said, “Some questions need to be answered. Why did the incident happen on the day of (panchayat) election? How did such a large crowd appear all of a sudden? It appears that it was planned. We will use all modern probe aids, surveillance tools, help from cyber cell and LIU (local intelligence unit) to soon get to the bottom of this.”
In clashes that followed through the day several shops belonging to Muslims were gutted. Police vehicles were set on fire, too, and seven cops sustained injuries as they fought pitched battles with local residents.