Uma Bharti emerges from the Uttar Pradesh Assembly followed by BJP legislators Hukum Singh (circled left) and Sangeet Som (circled right) on Wednesday. Picture by Naeem Ansari
Lucknow, Sept. 18: How did the three get away? Ask Uma Bharti.
A team of 150 policemen waiting outside the Uttar Pradesh Assembly to arrest three BJP legislators accused of inciting the Muzaffarnagar violence had to return empty-handed today after the veteran foiled the plot.
A sea of party supporters, marshalled by her, formed a human wall around the three MLAs as they emerged from the House before Uma spirited them away in a car.
Uma, who had earlier held a meeting with BJP MLAs inside the House, was apparently the brain behind the afternoon getaway that unfolded across the road from the Assembly.
The former Madhya Pradesh chief minister had earlier warned the Samajwadi Party-led government that it would have to “face consequences” if it targeted leaders of only “one community”.
The team of 150 policemen had waited an hour and a half outside the Assembly since 4pm for Sangeet Som, legislator from Sardhana (Meerut), Bhartendu Singh (Muzaffarnagar) and Hukum Singh (Meerut) against whom warrants had been issued in connection with the recent violence.
Media teams had lined up television cameras in front of the Assembly to beam the expected arrests live.
By 5pm, hundreds of BJP supporters had started gathering in front of the BJP office across the road.
As the three legislators stepped out of the Assembly at 5.30, the BJP supporters moved in, creating a wall around them as they headed towards the party office. After they reached the office, the three got into a car with Uma, who is now an Uttar Pradesh MLA, and sped off before the police could catch up.
Sources said Uma held a meeting of BJP legislators inside the Assembly after news had trickled in that the police were ready to arrest the three MLAs.
“Actually, the police did not try at all to arrest the three MLAs,” BSP leader S.P. Maurya said.
Anil Dubey, a leader of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, said: “The arrest drama was to fool the people.”
Earlier, Som, who kept meeting media persons inside the Assembly complex, exuded confidence, daring the police to arrest him. “I am here, ready for the arrest. Let them arrest me,” he said.
Apart from allegations of making provocative speeches, Som is alleged to have uploaded a fake video that is said to have fanned passions further. The police had said Som was a key accused in the violence that has claimed 48 lives and displaced over 30,000 people in and around Muzaffarnagar.
“Let them prove that I have done it, the charges are cooked-up,” the MLA said.
When told that a court had issued the warrant, he said the police had “misled” the judge. “How was the investigation done so quickly? The police surely misled the court.”
Uma also slammed the government. “When there is no investigation, no evidence, how can one arrest the leaders? Just today, during a discussion in the House, the chief minister promised that he would not let police arrest any leader till investigations were carried out. It now appears he was lying,” she said.
“If the state government arrests leaders of only one community, it will have to face consequences.”
Som said if BJP MLAs were responsible, then cabinet minister Azam Khan was also “responsible”.
Two policemen have been recorded in a purported video sting as saying that the Samajwadi veteran had asked them not to arrest members of a particular community. Khan has denied the allegation.Som and the others were among 16 leaders against whom arrest warrants had been issued by different courts in Muzaffarnagar for allegedly making inflammatory speeches and violating prohibitory orders in the run-up to the violence that erupted early this month.
Key among the others, police said, are BSP MP Qadir Rana, BSP MLAs Noor Saleem and Maulana Jameel, Congress leader Saeeduzaman and Bharatiya Kisan Union chief Naresh Tikait.
Samajwadi leader in Muzaffarnagar Rashid Siddiqui also faces a warrant for allegedly making provocative statements on September 5-6, police sources said.
BSP MP Rana claimed attendance in Parliament on August 30 when he is alleged to have made an inflammatory speech in his constituency in Muzaffarnagar.
BKU leader Tikait, eldest son of the late farmer leader Mahendra Singh Tikait, said he had tried to stop some farmers from turning violent. “I don’t know why my name has figured (in the FIR). I did not make any provocative speeches,” he told this correspondent.
The police say he made a provocative speech on September 5.The move to arrest the BJP legislators came a day after Allahabad High Court directed the state government to respond to an allegation by a social activist that the Akhilesh Yadav administration was shying off arresting the key accused. The state has been given two weeks to respond.
Senior superintendent of police Praveen Kumar told reporters in Muzaffarnagar that the police would arrest all the accused in two days. “We have evidence against some, some more evidence is being gathered,” he said.