Toll climbs to 21, probe ordered, Rajnath speaks to CM

Mathura-Clash-Fire Homes of members of a sect burn following clashes with police during an eviction at the Jawahar Bagh park in Mathura | AFP

21 people, including an SP and an SHO, have been killed in the massive clash between police and encroachers that broke out in Mathura on Thursday even as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav ordered an inquiry.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who spoke to Yadav, expressed anguish over the loss of lives and assured all necessary help to the state government.

19 people have been killed apart from SP City Mukul Dwivedi and SHO, Farah, Santosh Yadav, Pradeep Bhatnagar, Commissioner, Agra Division, said.

A magisterial probe has also been ordered, he said.

The violence had erupted when police were trying to evict illegal occupants, believed to be of Azad Bharat Vidhik Vaicharik Kranti Satyagrahi, from Jawahar Bagh on Thursday on the directions of the Allahabad High Court.

In Lucknow, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav ordered a probe by the divisional commissioner of Mathura, an official spokesperson said.

DGP Javed Ahmed and Principal Secretary (Home) Debashish Panda have rushed here.

The Union Home Minister said he has reviewed the situation in Mathura.

"I have spoken to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pardesh and reviewed the situation in Mathura. I have assured him of all possible help from the Centre.

"I am anguished over the loss of lives in the incident in Mathura. May God give strength to the bereaved families," Rajnath Singh said.

Police said some vehicles bearing Madhya Pradesh registration number have been found.

"The wrath of people against encroachers was such that when they were retreating, they were severely beaten by the public," an official said.

The activists used not only hand grenades but also opened fire from automatic weapons after taking position on tree tops, DM Rajesh Kumar had said.

The area was filled with smoke following explosions from hand grenades and LPG cylinders and several huts caught fire, he said.

Over two years ago, activists of splinter group of Baba Jai Gurudeo had occupied hundreds of acres of land of Jawahar Bagh on the pretext of 'dharna'.

Their demands included "cancellation" of election of President and Prime Minister of India, replacement of existing currency with 'Azad Hind Fauj' currency, sale of diesel at the rate of 60 litres for one rupee and petrol at the rate of 40 litres for one rupee.

The high court had, acting on a PIL, directed the authorities to vacate the land.

In April, Mathura district administration had issued a notice to the protesters asking them to vacate the land.

The land falls under the Horticultural Department of the UP government, and attempts by its officials to evict the people had failed.

Meanwhile, Mathura MP Hema Malini expressed shock and anguish over the incident and questioned why UP police "did not" take action in the matter during the last two years.

"It is very sad and I was very, very shocked that policemen and people lost their lives. For the last two years I had heard that they had occupied land," the BJP MP said.

"Uttar Pradesh government has to be made accountable for this. It is answerable. I will ask the chief minister about it and they should have looked into the matter two years back.... Why this kind of thing has happened now? I will write to the Centre as well," Hema said.

The Chief Minister had announced an ex-gratia of Rs 20 lakh to the family of the deceased policemen.

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