Main suspect in Bulandshahr violence 'arrested'
Police have arrested Yogesh Raj a month after the Bajrang Dal leader allegedly instigated a crowd in Bulandshahr to resort to violence over cow slaughter in which a police inspector and a youth were killed.
Officially, the police said Yogesh was picked up from Khurja, 20km south of Bulandshahr, around 11.30 on Wednesday night. A police source, however, claimed that some of Yogesh’s leaders led cops to his hideout in New Delhi and handed him over to them on the condition that he wouldn’t be harassed physically.
Yogesh, the local convener of the Bajrang Dal whose name is the first on the FIR related to the violence, was produced in a court in Bulandshahr on Thursday and remanded in 14 days’ jail custody.
News agency PTI reported that the Bajrang Dal had announced it would provide all support, including legal, to Yogesh.
A police officer in Lucknow said on condition of anonymity that Yogesh had “agreed to get arrested” because the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh was facing sharp criticism “for not doing anything to nab him”.
On December 3, Yogesh and other Sangh parivar leaders had allegedly provoked a crowd to resort to vandalism after 25 cow carcasses were found in a sugarcane field in Bulandshahr at a time lakhs of Muslims had gathered in the district for a religious congregation.
Yogesh and the other leaders had not allegedly allowed the field owner and locals to bury the carcasses to avoid trouble and instigated the crowd to protest on a highway and attack a police outpost. Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh and Sumit Kumar Singh, a bystander, died of bullet injuries they suffered in the attack.
The police probe had pointed to a pre-planned conspiracy to cause communal tension. However, the police, following the line adopted by chief minister Yogi Adityanath, had focused more on the cow slaughter rather than on the deaths of the inspector and the youth.
Prabhakar Chaudhary, senior superintendent of police of Bulandshahr, said on Thursday that the police acted on a tip-off and raided a house in Khurja and arrested Yogesh.
Yogesh had been absconding since the violence. He had released a video two days after the vandalism claiming that he was not present at the spot and had no role in the murders.
Before escaping Yogesh had registered a police case against six Muslims accusing them of cow slaughter. All six were arrested within 24 hours. It emerged later that two of them were 11 and 12 years old and were somewhere else when the cows were slaughtered. The remaining four were sent to jail but two weeks later the police concluded that they were innocent and dropped all charges against them.
Speaking to reporters in Etah, Subodh’s wife Rajni Singh said: “I hope Yogesh will be punished for the crime he has committed and justice will prevail. I hope justice will defeat the criminals.”
On Wednesday, two youths — Satish Kumar and Vinit Kumar — had surrendered in a Bulandshahar court in connection with the violence that led to the twin murders. Yogesh is the 32nd person to be arrested in the case.
The western Uttar Pradesh unit of the Bajrang Dal said a battery of lawyers would provide legal aid to Yogesh.
“Only after a chargesheet is filed by the police can we know what are the charges against him,” Praveen Bhati, the co-convenor of the Bajrang Dal’s western Uttar Pradesh unit, told PTI. “A panel of 10 lawyers was announced by our vibhag mantri a week ago to handle the case. They will be available for his legal aid and all support will be given to him,” Bhati said.
Bhati had earlier appealed to Yogesh to surrender and join the police probe, assuring the organisation’s support to him.