SIT Names BJP Member As Accused in Meerut Violence and Arson
The police reportedly suspects that the violence was planned, and that the BJP Leader, Shahid Bharti, was the mastermind behind it.
On March 6, over 250 houses, of members of the Muslim community, were burnt down and several vehicles damaged by mobs that went berserk after local authorities tried to remove encroachments in the Meerut‘s Sadar Bazar area, reported Abdul Alim Jafri of NewsClick.
As per a PTI report, the police said their men were also fired at from the rooftops. Over two dozen cars and two-wheelers and eight or nine buses were damaged in the violence triggered by an attempt by the Cantonment Board and the police to remove encroachments in Bhusa Mandi.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe was initiated two days after the incident. The Meerut police launched a crackdown against 60 suspects and announced a reward of Rs 25,000 for any clue on the hideouts of the 30 identified persons.
The probe, however, has shed light on some disturbing facts. As per an Indian Express report, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) minority cell member, Shahid Bharti, has been named as an accused in the SIT probe into the violence, arson and widespread looting. Bharti, as per the report, is the third out of the total 30 identified among 80 suspects shortlisted by the SIT through three videos and eight photographs. The police, as per a News18 report allegedly have damning evidence that Bharti was responsible for fanning the flames, figuratively, in this case. The report adds that the cops believe that the incident was a planned one and that Bharti was the mastermind.
Gaurav Sharma of Amar Ujala too reported that Bharti, with his face covered, incited the crowds at Meerut. The report also said Bharti was armed with a rod. Bharti, as per Amar Ujala, is a resident of Bhusa Mandi. The neighbourhood reportedly has BJP posters that feature him.
The ruling party, however, was quick to distance itself from the controversy. As per Indian Express, the BJP has “disowned” Bharti.
“Earlier, he was a member of the party’s cell, but he has not been with us for a long time. We have directed our cadre to remove posters and are also going for verification of our existing office-bearers of the minority cell in Meerut,” said Tehseen Ali, district chief of the Meerut minority cell of the BJP.
But barely hours after Bharti’s name appeared as an accused, a letter nominating him as the minority cell member and signed by Ali on July 18, 2018, was found.
Trouble in Meerut’s Sadar Bazar began when, on March 6, Meerut Cantonment Board members accompanied by a police team reached Bhusa Mandi to remove illegal encroachments from the market. Agitated over the civic authorities’ actions, miscreants allegedly resorted to stone pelting. A few men in the agitating crowd set a few nearby jhuggis on fire, which spread rapidly, engulfing and gutting over 150 of them. Some even resorted to firing upon the police team from their rooftops. There were, however, no casualties due to firing.