A police constable died after he was hit by a stone during violent protests in Uttar Pradesh's Ghazipur on Saturday afternoon, a couple of hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in the district. Police identified the attackers as members of the Nishad Party, which was holding a district-wide agitation to demand greater reservation in government jobs and colleges for their community.
Eleven people have been arrested and several others have been detained.
This is the second incident of a policeman being killed by a mob in Uttar Pradesh over the last few weeks. Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh was shot dead in western Uttar Pradesh's Bulandshahr on December 3, after clashes erupted over cow slaughter allegations.
The incident on Saturday occurred while the victim, constable Suresh Vats, and his colleagues were returning from security duty at PM Modi's rally a few kilometres away. A policeman who witnessed the entire episode said that the control room had alerted them to a large group of Nishad community members blocking a highway near Itwa crossing to demand the release of a fellow-activist. "We tried placating the agitators, but they just wouldn't listen. Instead, they began throwing bricks and stones at us. About three of us were injured, and Suresh died before he could be taken to a hospital," he said.
Mahipal Pathak, a senior police officer, confirmed that the attackers belonged to the Nishad Party.
However, party chief Sanjay Kumar Nishad denied the charge. "We want a detailed police investigation into the incident. The BJP is trying to defame us by levelling false allegations," he said.
The political party enjoys the support of the Nishads, an OBC (other backward classes) community that has a sizeable presence in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Praveen Kumar, his son, had won the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha bypolls earlier this year with the support of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala reacted by claiming that neither people nor the police were safe in "Yogi Adityanath's grand jungle rule". "Today in Ghazipur after Modiji's rally, a mob mercilessly killed police constable Suresh Vats," he tweeted. "Democracy in BJP rule=mobocracy."
Mr Vats hailed from Lachhipur in Pratapgarh district. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has asked the Ghazipur District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police to arrest the accused immediately. He also announced compensation amounting to Rs 40 lakh for the constable's wife and Rs 10 lakh for his parents, a press release from the Chief Minister's Office stated.