Violence and arson erupted at Kherha in Meerut district as supporters of the jailed Bharatiya Janata Party MLA, Sangeet Singh Som, who had gathered in the village for a banned sarvdaliya mahapanchayat, fought a pitched battle with the security forces on Sunday. Though all roads leading to the village from Muzaffarnagar and Baghpat districts had been sealed by the police, and 32 companies of the Central Para Military Force and Provincial Armed Constabulary deployed, besides the presence of 40 women sub-inspectors and 400 women constables, 5,000-6,000 people managed to assemble at the venue.
Fourteen persons, including 13 policemen and Rapid Action Force personnel, were injured in heavy stone throwing. About a dozen vehicles, nine of them belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force, were either torched or damaged. Mohit, 24, suffered a fracture in the jaw as the police lathicharged the mob and fired in the air.
Uttar Pradesh Home Secretary Kamal Saksena said here that 24 persons were arrested and patrolling was intensified in rural areas. Mr. Saksena denied that the Army was called in, adding it was alerted by the district administration.
Sunday’s mahapanchayat at Janata Inter College at Kherha had been organised by Som’s brother Sagar Som, and the MLA’s wife, in protest against his being booked under the National Security Act for allegedly inciting violence in Muzaffarnagar recently. It was to be attended by people belonging to Mr. Som’s community from 24 villages in a three-four-km radius of Kherha. Inspector-General (Law and Order), Raj Kumar Vishwakarama said Kherha is surrounded by sugarcane fields and the crowd, 25 per cent of it women, reached the venue through village pathways. When the people were prevented from participating in the panchayat, the mob resorted to heavy brickbatting.
Describing the violence and arson by the MLA’s supporters as “irresponsible behaviour,” the Home Secretary said strict action would be taken against those who had called the panchayat.