[The violence broke out when the police tried to clear about 2,000 people from a public garden in the city of Mathura, about 60 miles south of New Delhi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where they had been living for more than two years, officials said.]
By Hari Kumar
Fire engulfed buildings in Jawahar Bagh park in
were trying to evict them. At least 24 people were killed. Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The violence broke out when the police tried to clear about 2,000 people from a public garden in the city of Mathura, about 60 miles south of New Delhi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where they had been living for more than two years, officials said.
In a news conference in
on Friday, S. Javeed Ahmad, the police chief
of Uttar Pradesh, said the police surrounded the garden, Jawahar Bagh, which
sprawls over more than 200 acres, at about on Thursday. Then, citing court orders, the
police told the occupiers they had to leave. When the protesters refused, the
police entered the garden and were attacked. Mathura
Protesters “fired on the police party from tree tops,” Mr. Ahmad said. One of the targets of the protesters were small huts they had constructed in the park that were stocked with explosives and gas cylinders that exploded when hit, killing 11 people.
“Initially, police did not expect this kind of retaliation by them,” said Mr. Ahmad.
The dead included the two senior police officers of
, who were stoned and shot during the attack
and died from their wounds in a hospital later on Thursday, the police said. Mathura
Television stations broadcast footage on Friday of the garden engulfed in flames, with smoke rising above its trees and the wounded being carried out. The number of protesters killed was not known.
The police recovered six rifles, 47 handguns and 178 rounds of ammunition. Twenty-three officers were wounded. The district magistrate of
, Rajesh Kumar, speaking to a reporter in a
video posted on YouTube, said a bullet had grazed his head. He did not appear
to be seriously wounded. Mathura
The protesters said they were members of a group that venerates Subhas Chandra Bose, an Indian nationalist and anticolonial activist. Unable to swallow
’s support for its British rulers in World
War II, Bose made common cause with the Axis powers, India and Germany , forming the Indian National Army, which
fought alongside the Japanese. He reportedly died in a plane crash in 1945 that
has provided fodder for conspiracy theorists ever since. Japan
Not all of the protesters’ ideology is known, but local Hindi news media said that its adherents were calling for higher gasoline subsidies, the use of gold coins as currency and punishment for nonvegetarians. The protesters’ leader, Ram Vriksha Yadav, believed to be in his mid-50s, could not be found after the confrontation.
“They were complete anarchists and not listening to the local administration,” said Pradeep Bhatnagar, the divisional commissioner of
, who was asked to investigate the incident
by the state government. He confirmed that the protesters cast themselves as
adherents of Bose and added that they “did not believe in government
Nida Najar contributed reporting.