Around 30 people, including police personnel, a media person and women, sustained injuries in a clash between the police and followers of the Radha Soami Satsang Sabha cult in the Dayal Bagh area of Uttar Pradesh’s Agra district Sunday evening.
Tension between the police and followers had been brewing since Saturday when a large contingent of force bulldozed walls and gates put up by followers in various pathways surrounding their ashram in Dayal Bagh. While the followers termed the police action on Saturday a dictatorial move, the Agra administration said they had encroached a large area outside the ashram, causing inconvenience to commuters.
Trouble erupted on Sunday around 4.30 pm when Agra District Magistrate Bhanu Chandra Goswami sent a police team to the spot where “illegal structures” were reduced to rubble on Saturday only to find that a gate and a wall had again been put up on Gate No. 8 on the Tannery road.
The followers of the Satsang Sabha had strategically placed women carrying children in their laps behind the re-erected gate and the wall. The police team tried to persuade them to clear the area but they allegedly started pelting stones and some of the women followers, wearing Army-like uniforms, attacked the police with lathis.
“We avoided a direct confrontation since the crowd had women and children who were pelting stones and attacking the policemen with lathis. We had to use mild lathi charge at least three times to disperse them,” said Suraj Rai, the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), West Zone in Agra.
Around a dozen policemen, over 20 followers, mainly women, and a photo lensman, Raj Kumar Uppal, sustained injuries in the melee, which lasted for two hours and the police had to backtrack because the followers outnumbered the law enforcers. Uppal was hit on the head with a brick and is admitted to the government hospital in Agra.
“Over 40 Satsangis (followers), which mainly included women and children, were injured in the police lathi charge on the barbaric charge of baton on innocent people. We have video graphed the incident and sent it to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO),” said S K Nayyar, the media in charge of the Sabha.
“A senior official has been directed to verify the land revenue records to identify the actual area which is legally in possession of the Sabha. We have given a 24-hour deadline to the followers to vacate the encroached land and will take action if orders are not complied with. None will be allowed to take the law into their hand,” said Agra Commissioner Ritu Maheshwari.
The Radha Soami Satsang Sabha was founded by Seth Shiv Dayalji Maharaj in Agra on February 15, 1861, and it has followers worldwide.
Condemning the police action, former UP chief minister and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, in a post on X, formerly Twitter, has written that Dayal Bagh had always been a symbol of devotion, brotherhood and moral education.
“This land has now become a hot cake for BJP leaders backed by the police force to serve the vested monetary interest of the land mafia. This is a lethal attack on the value-based Indian tradition of the Satsang. My party is with the Sabha on the issue, and we will fight to save Dayal Bagh from these elements. We will not allow the anti-religion bulldozer of the BJP to move even an inch,” he said.