Ghaziabad. A peace march taken out by the local residents to protest against government’s incompetence in dealing with rising crimes in the area turned violent after police lathicharged the protesting mob. Following the lathicharge, the residents first pelted stones on the police, set vehicles on fire on NH-24, and then proceeded to loot valuables from the neighborhood, which were incidentally their own homes. The government has ordered inquiry into the whole incident while the residents are demanding compensation for their looted valuables.
“Our lives have become hellish here. Each day someone is looted or some house is burgled. Even rapes and murders are becoming common. We have lost our sleep while the government seems to be in slumber. We were protesting peacefully but were provoked by the police who started beating us with lathis (bamboo sticks) without any warning. What followed was unfortunate but the government is solely responsible for it.” Ganpat Rawat, a local protester who suffered three lathi blows and got his color television looted, said.
But police have denied that they beat up the protestors with sticks without any provocation or warning. Police claim that the protestors tried to forcibly break through the barricade and were trying to snatch weapons from the policemen. Police maintain that they had to beat the residents up with bamboo sticks to stop the mob from turning into an armed gang of robbers.
“First they wanted to loot our wireless radio in the PCR van, then they tried to snatch our service rifles and revolvers, in fact some of them even tried to snatch the lathis. What do you expect the police to do in such case? You can see for yourself what happened after that. When they can loot each other’s homes with empty hands, imagine what they would have done with rifles, revolvers and lathis!” police inspector Y N Choudhary wondered.
Government has ordered an inquiry into the circumstances that led to the lathicharge and ensuing loot by the residents. The government has not promised to pay any compensation to the locals but promised to ‘look into the matter’. The residents have threatened another round of peaceful protests if the government doesn’t act fast.
“What are we supposed to do if the government doesn’t act? We were snatching weapons to arm us against the criminals. Out of anger and frustration we looted the neighborhood, it’s absolutely normal you know. But that doesn’t mean government can ignore their duties. We are rightful citizens of this country.” Bulla Baweja, a local resident argued.
The local residents have also rejected government’s appeal to return the looted valuables to each other. The residents termed the government’s appeal as ‘senseless’. But the incident is threatening to divide the local residents as a members belonging to a particular gotra have approached a local khap panchayat to pressurize other residents to return their looted goods.