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Cop drives into Kumbh storm
- DIG caught on camera breaking rule

Lucknow, Feb. 15: A top cop known as Uttar Pradesh’s Daya Nayak, after the Maharashtra encounter specialist who inspired the Nana Patekar-starrer Ab Tak Chhappan, today had an encounter he might have wished he never had.

Lucknow DIG Navneet Sikera was caught on camera driving to the Sangam with family and friends in his official car in alleged violation of a high court order and a government advisory against entry of VIP cars at the Maha Kumbh Mela site in Allahabad.

Sikera, 39, covered his face with cloth when he suddenly ran into a swarm of photographers and other media crew, and claimed he was not aware of the curbs.

“If it is a mistake coming here in my car, I assure you I will not use it now. Let me walk this distance,” Sikera said as he got off the car and made his way towards the ghats where over three crore devotees had shahi snan (grand bath) on Basant Panchami today.

But Sikera’s act raised questions over the way law-enforcers violated rules aimed at better crowd management, the lack of which was blamed for last week’s stampede at Allahabad station where 36 devotees died and which prompted the court ban.

Mohammad Azam Khan, who had resigned as the minister in charge of Kumbh after the stampede but was asked by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav to stay on, described today’s breach as “a serious matter”.

Khan had earlier asked fair officials to regulate the entry of VIPs and their retinues to avoid crowd trouble. “I had expected VIPs to maintain restraint. The government has asked the fair administration to a provide list of violators.”

The government advisory, issued at the start of the Maha Kumbh Mela last month, had asked state officials and politicians among other VIPs to avoid visiting Kumbh when huge crowds were expected, typically the days of the grand baths.

The advisory and the court ban remain in force till the end of the fair in the second week of next month. The exceptions include police officers on duty and ambulances.

Sikera isn’t a stranger to controversy. Colleagues said the officer behind 50 encounters had improved the law and order in Muzaffarnagar, infamous as the state’s kidnapping and extortion capital, which was among his initial postings as SP. The reputation followed him to Varanasi.

Sikera is known to be close to the ruling Samajwadi Party. He had been sidelined by the previous BSP government led by Mayawati.

Fire at ground

A woman was killed and two others injured when a fire swept through a cluster of tents at the fair ground early today. Officials suspected a short circuit.