The hero's welcome given to the men accused of inciting the violence in Bulandshahr -- in which a police officer was killed last December -- was no big deal, the Uttar Pradesh government said today. Seven of the 33 men accused in the case were released on bail last week, and were welcomed with garlands and chants of "Jai Shri Ram" by right-wing activists.
Those released on bail on Saturday included Shikhar Agarwal, the former chief of the local BJP youth wing, Hemu and Upendra Raghav, who are part of a right-wing group, a former army man identified as Jeetu Fauji, Saurav and Rohit Raghav. The videos of the welcome party, shot by local reporters, triggered opposition outrage after they were circulated on social media.
"If supporters of people who have been released from jail welcome them, the government and BJP have nothing to do with it. The Opposition should not make a mountain out of a molehill," Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister KP Maurya was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
The men were accused of inciting violence at a village after carcasses of 25 cows were found in a nearby forest area in December last year.
Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh was attacked by a mob of around 400 people when he went to restore calm in the area. The police said a man armed with an axe chopped off two of his fingers and hit him on the head. Others shot him. His body was found inside his official police vehicle, abandoned in a field.
A cellphone video of the attack later surfaced, in which a crowd could be seen opening fire and shouting "goli maaro".
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had ordered a quick probe by a Special Investigation Team. Later, five men were accused of murder and 33 others were accused of inciting violence and arson. The SIT had submitted a 3,400-page case diary and 103-page charge sheet against the 38 accused.
Former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav attacked the ruling BJP over the issue. "Uttar Pradesh has seen fake encounters but an inspector died and the accused, when they came out on bail, they are being welcomed. Is this the new definition of democracy?" he said.