Agra clashes | Allahabad High Cour says maintain ‘status quo’; Radha Soami sect and police remain at loggerheads

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A view of the location where the clashes between members of Radha Soami Satsang Sabha and the Agra police authorities took place.

A view of the location where the clashes between members of Radha Soami Satsang Sabha and the Agra police authorities took place.
| Photo Credit: The Hindu

Three days after a clash broke between the devotees of the Radha Soami Satsang Sabha and Agra police, the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday asked both parties to maintain the status quo till the next date of hearing.

The incident, which took place over disputes regarding the demolition of alleged encroachment on government land saw many people injured, and has put the local administration on back-foot. The Chief Minister’s office reportedly objected to the way the issue was handled by the local officials, and even Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav criticised the assault on the followers of a spiritual sect.

The officials of the district administration claim that area in possession of the Radha Soami Satsang Sabha is a ‘chak’ land (territory circled for revenue settlement/assessment) and should be freed for public use. The authorities of the spiritual sect, however, allege that the administration was illegally demolishing properties on their land with an aim to please the builder lobby.

“There is a lobby of local builders who are trying to encroach the Yamuna flood plains and the Satsang Sabha is a hurdle to their ambitions. We have properties in the area which directly connects the flood plain to the city,” alleged a senior official from the Satsang Sabha while speaking with The Hindu.

What led to the clash

The clash between the satsangis (devotees) and the authorities started when police, along with 2 companies of the Provincial Armed Constabulary, reached Agra’s Dayalbagh – a colony spread over 1,400 acres of land developed by the Radha Soami Satsang Sabha – and asked them to vacate a portion of the land, which revenue records state is owned by the State.

Since it was a Sunday, hundreds of the sect’s adherents had gathered at Dayalbagh for their weekly congregation. Even as the devotees tried to stop the police from entering into the premises, the Satsang Sabha authorities began making announcements declaring their ownership of the disputed land via loudspeakers. This, claims the police, had agitated the volunteers. There are also allegations that there were girls dressed in olive fatigues armed with lathis (wooden staffs) who attacked the police. However, the satsangis claim the lathis were part of the girls’ PT practice.

“We were only accompanying the revenue department to help in the demolition drive. Police sought cooperation from the Satsang Sabha but they turned violent. They also used women dressed in olive fatigues, akin to fake army uniforms, as shields. We used proportionate and mild force to disburse the crowd,” said Suraj Kumar, additional Superintendent of Police, Agra.

In the clashes, over 80 satsangis were injured, claimed the authorities of the spiritual sect. Around 10 policemen were also hurt, claims the police.

In the viral videos of the clash, policemen and satsangis canbe seen attacking each other. Although the police has shared pictures of a lathi used by satsangis coated with iron nails, the Satsang Sabha has shared footage of the police thrashing women and children, as well as authorities stopping the injured from availing treatment at local hospitals. 

Maintain status quo

While hearing the petition filed by Satsang Sabha against the demolition drive, the bench of Justice Manish Kumar Nigam asked the matter to be put up fresh on October 5.

In the Court, the Uttar Pradesh government, the Agra district administration and the police claimed that the demolition action was taken as per the rules. The Satsang Sabha was given a notice and also provided time to submit ownership proofs.

The Sabha, however, maintains that they had already submitted the copies of the agreements, leases, deeds and orders made from 1935 to the present to the concerned authorities. The Satsang Sabha also questioned how the administration woke up to the encroachment only now given that this area has been in possession of the sect for many decades now.

“The followers of Radha Soami sect are exemplary all over the world for their spirituality, love, compassion and satsang. Dayalbagh has always been a symbol of faith, harmony, service and education. Now the ruling party and the police administration are engaged in serving the selfish interests of the BJP and its friends. Samajwadi Party stands with Radha Soami Satsang in protest against this injustice and is supporting in every way in the campaign to save Dayalbagh,” Akhilesh Yadav said. He added that the people will not tolerate BJP’s anti-religious bulldozing.

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