The Uttar Pradesh police have named a general secretary of the Nishad party, an ally of the SP-BSP in the state, as the main accused in the murder of a policeman by a mob in Ghazipur, a couple of hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in the district. Twenty-seven people have been arrested so far in connection with the case. All of them were part of the mob that threw stones at the police and hit them with sticks, an officer said.
Constable Suresh Vats was hit in the head with a stone. Senior police officers say that they don't know who threw the stone that killed the cop, but at least two mobile phone videos filmed on Saturday show Arjun Singh Kashyap at the forefront of the protests to press reservation for the OBC Nishad community. Mr Kashyap has been missing since the incident.
"I am here because of the demands of my community. Other people have taken our rights and we have been left in the lurch," Mr Kashyap can be heard saying in one of the videos.
The police say Mr Kashyap instigated the crowd against the policemen.
"We will invoke strict sections for criminal acts. The accused will be severely punished. This will send out a strong message and no one will dare harm policemen," said PV Rama Sastry, a senior police officer.
Suresh Vats was the second policeman to die at the hands of a mob in a month. On December 3, inspector Subodh Kumar Singh was mercilessly beaten up and shot dead in Bulandshahr after cow carcasses were found in a forest. The attackers had used stones, sticks to hit him and chopped off his finger with an axe before shooting him.
Among the accused are leaders from the right-wing groups Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). But the UP police have been reluctant in naming these organisations on record. However, no such hesitation was shown in the Ghazipur case where the Nishad party figures at least thrice in the First Information Report (FIR).
The FIR says the police was trying to reason with Nishad party members who refused to listen and started damaging police vehicles and throwing stones at the cops. It adds the cops were abused and threatened by members of the Nishad party.
After allegations of mismanagement in the investigation into Subodh Kumar's murder, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had said the incident was a "political conspiracy" and those maligning him should "applaud and thank the government".