Encroachment, a birth-right

The events leading to violence in Mathura are symptomatic of the many an inveterate malady in the body politic. Two dozen people, including two police officers, lost their lives because a lunatic clique was not only tolerated but encouraged by the powers that be.

To begin with, the tragic incident underlines the complete failure of the political class. In fact, there are indications that it was worse than an administrative failure; most probably, there was collusion of politicians.

Speaking for the entire political class, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley often laments about the judiciary’s overreach. The Mathura disturbances, however, justify such overreach, for had it not been for the Allahabad High Court’s orders, the cult leader Ram Vriksh Yadav and his goons would still have been occupying Jawahar Bagh. In fact, the local administration took a year to execute even the high court orders. It was only when the court threatened the cops of contempt that they decided to act against the encroachers.

The cops did not act because, apparently, their political masters were sympathetic to Ram Vriksh Yadav. “Whenever we tried to remove him from the park, we received a call from Lucknow to go slow. We knew well that he had assembled deadly weapons and explosives,” a senior officer told The Telegraph, Kolkatta, on the condition of anonymity (June 4). “Two weeks ago, the civic authorities cut off electricity and water to the park, but supply was restored within 12 hours following a call from Lucknow.”

This was despite the fact that the intentions of the outfit Ram Vriksh Yadav headed, Swadheen Bharat Subhash Sena, had encroached upon 280 acres of government land—and that too near the district magistrate’s residence for two-and-a-half years. The body had a mad agenda. They wanted the elections for President and Prime Minister of India be abrogated, the use of ‘Azad Hind Fauj’ currency, and diesel to be priced at the rate of 60 litres for Re 1 and petrol at 40 litres for Re 1.

Ram Vriksh Yadav was reportedly close to UP Minister Shivpal Yadav, who is Samajwadi Party boss Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger brother and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s uncle.

With such politicians at the helm of affairs, all complaints about judicial activism sound hollow.

It must be emphasized here that the SP is not the only party cynically using a weird, violent sect to gain political mileage. The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Haryana has also been accused of paying undue obeisance to an assortment of gurus and treating shady sects with kid gloves. The Manohar Lal Khattar government’s action against Rampal, the head of a cult charged with serious offences, was not exactly prompt. Further, the state government has adopted a very conciliatory attitude towards the controversial Dera Sacha Sauda chief.

The Congress, too, has no compunctions in deriving political gains from associations with unsavory characters. It has also sought support of the Dera in the not-so-distant past. And way back in the 1980s, it had promoted Bhindranwale, who proved to be a Frankenstein’s monster, ultimately devouring the creator.

Apart from the political class, the media and other thought leaders are also responsible for the aggravation of the situation. The removal of squatters and encroachers is a big problem not just because of the sluggish justice system and the red tape but also the phony compassion that the popes and bishops of public discourse peddle. I say phony because the ultimate victims of this supposed compassion are the intended beneficiaries themselves. For they are forced to lead a subhuman life in slums and shanties that spring up owing to collusion between politicians, the local authorities, and police. So, any action against encroachers gets embroiled in controversy.

So, unsurprisingly, the new mantra of the unscrupulous is: “Encroaching upon government, public land is my birth-right, and I shall have it.” Ram Vriksh Yadav and other loonies were just exercising their birth-right.