A day after an aide of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA allegedly gunned down a man in front of sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) and circle officer (CO) in Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP legislator from Bairia assembly seat of Ballia, Surendra Singh, came out in defence of the accused Dheerendra Singh. The lawmaker claimed his aide opened fire in self-defence.
A man was shot dead on Thursday after Dheerendra Singh allegedly opened fire into a crowd in front of local administrative officials over a dispute at a meeting for selection of ration shops in Ballia district. The accused left the scene amid a stampede-like situation that followed the firing. The deceased was identified as Jai Prakash Pal.
“I would like to appeal to the district administration of Ballia not to take one-sided action," said Surendra Singh. “Had Dheerendra Singh not opened fire, dozens of his family members would have been killed. Whatever happened should be condemned but there should not be one-sided action. People who opened fire should be punished but at the same time those who attacked with sticks and rods should also be punished. Dheerenda Singh opened fire in self-defence as he was not left with any other option."
Later on Friday, the police detained five people and arrested the brother of Dheerendra Singh.
Additional Director General (ADG) of Police Brij Bhushan visited the scene of crime in Durjanpur village on Friday, along with DIG Subhash Chandra Dubey, and said the incident was “unfortunate" and that strict action would be taken against all the accused. The ADG said Narendra Pratap Singh, the brother of the main accused, has been arrested.
Narendra Pratap Singh has been named in an FIR, besides his brother and 22-25 unnamed persons. A district police officer said raids are being conducted for the arrest of the accused persons. The main accused is still on the run.
Ballia Superintendent of Police Devendra Nath said, “The incident took place after a clash erupted between two groups during the meeting. An investigation is underway."
A brother of the deceased, however, alleged that the police let off the main accused. “There were 10 policemen on the spot…they were saving the culprits and beating us. When Dheerendra Pratap Singh was fleeing after firing, the police had caught him from behind. But they later took him to a nearby embankment and let him go," Tej Pratap Pal, the brother of the deceased, said on Friday.
Ballia District Magistrate Hari Pratap Shahi said the process of cancellation of arms licences of the accused persons was underway. DIG Dubey told reporters that, prima facie, there was laxity on the part of the police.
Additional Superintendent of Police Sanjay Kumar Singh said the nine police personnel have been suspended. Five people have been detained for questioning, he said, adding that raids are being conducted for the arrest of the accused. Bairia MLA Surendra Singh confirmed that main accused Singh heads the BJP’s ex-servicemen’s unit in Ballia district.
Opposition attacks CM
Soon after, chief minister Yogi Adityanath ordered the immediate suspension of local SDM Suresh Pal, CO Chandrakesh Singh and other police personnel who were present at the spot. He also directed that strict action be initiated against the accused.
The role of the officers will be investigated and, if found responsible, criminal action will be taken, additional chief secretary (home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi said in Lucknow. A sizable police force has been deployed in the village to maintain peace, the SP said.
The incident came against the backdrop of questions being raised on UP’s law and order situation, and the opposition parties hit out at the BJP-led government over the killing.
The Samajwadi Party, led by Akhilesh Yadav, said those in power are challenging law and order openly. “A horrific incident that defied law and order in Ballia has come to light where a BJP leader shot and killed a young man Jai Prakash Pal in front of SDM and CO. The BJP leader also escaped after being shot in front of the police,” the party’s official Twitter handle posted.
Party spokesperson and MLC Sunil Singh Sajan said the government is run by criminals and Thursday’s incident is proof of this. “There can be anything but law and order in the state. Goons of the BJP are killing people in front of SDM and CO and are also able to flee from the spot. You call this a Ram Rajya, Yogi ji? The Ravan Raj was 100 times better than your regime. You should resign and ask the biggest criminal you know to take the seat of chief minister instead. The government is hand in glove with the criminals; you’ve finished the government," Sajan said.
(With inputs from PTI)