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

The Allahabad High Court directed the maintenance of status quo till October 5 on a disputed piece of land in Agra’s Dayalbagh

Updated - September 28, 2023 11:33 am IST

Published - September 28, 2023 04:15 am IST - Agra

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, over the demolition of alleged encroachment on government land, the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday asked both the parties to maintain status quo till the next date of hearing on October 5.

At least 30 persons were injured on September 24 when a clash broke out between the Satsang Sabha followers and the police as a revenue team reached the disputed land to demolish the alleged illegal constructions by the Satsang Sabha.

A single-judge Bench of Justice Manish Kumar Nigam passed the order on a petition filed by the Satsang Sabha challenging the demolition proceeding by the Agra administration.

When the matter was taken up before the High Court on Wednesday, an amendment application was moved on behalf of the petitioner which was allowed by the court and the petitioner was directed to incorporate the same in the writ petition.

State counsel opposed the petition by saying that the construction had been raised by encroaching the land. However, the court said that arguments have to be heard on the next date of hearing on October 5. In the court, the Uttar Pradesh government, the district administration and Agra Police claimed that the demolition action was taken as per rules. The Satsang Sabha was issued a notice and given ample time to present evidence of land ownership.

The petitioner, however, maintained that the Satsang Sabha had submitted the copies of the agreements, deeds and orders since 1935 till date.

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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