First arrest made in Bulandshahr violence: all you need to know

A Delhi cab-driver, identified as Prashant Natt, was arrested on Thursday for allegedly shooting an inspector dead, in the Bulandhshar clash between cow vigilantes and the police earlier this month. The UP Police said he confessed to shooting Subodh Singh, who was first hit with a rock by a mob of around 400 people, that later chased his car to a field and shot him dead. 

This comes three weeks after investigators named Bajrang Dal activist Yogesh Raj as the prime suspect in the killing.

While Natt was not named in the FIR registered, his arrest comes after a video implicating him came into police possession. Testimonies of other key accused and technical evidence including call records and photographs further corroborated his complicity in the crime. Police have also reportedly identified the man suspected to have snatched Singh’s service revolver.

What the police said

Natt, in his statement, said he has been unemployed for the last six months and stayed with his wife and children in Chingrawati. He was arrested from the Noida-Bulandshahr border with the help of a tip-off, and will be sent to judicial custody. Sources further he has a criminal background with ongoing investigations against him for involvement in liquor smuggling cases.

The police also said that Raj who is currently on the run in still an accused in the case. “He has been declared a proclaimed offender by the court. If he does not surrender soon requisite action will be taken against him,” said Bulandshahr SSP Prabhakar Chaudhary.

What happened in Bulandshahr

Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh, posted at the Siyana Police Station in UP’s Bulandshahr district, was shot by the gun-wielding mob and died before he could be taken to the hospital. According to the police, he had fired at the mob in , killing a local Sumit Kumar, who had pelted stones at Singh, while he was reportedly trying to pacify the crowd.

“Prashanth and other protesters, identified as Rahul, David, Johnny, cornered Subodh in the fields and attacked him with stones. He fired in . The bullet hit Sumit… By this time, Subodh was grievously injured and had little energy left to defend himself,” Chaudhary said at the press conference on Thursday.

“Prashanth took Subodh’s service revolver and shot him in the head. His confession has been corroborated by other accused who submitted surrender pleas in the last week.”

Attacked repeatedly, Singh suffered several injuries from sharp and blunt objects besides the bullet wound, according to the postmortem report. On Thursday, police confirmed that Natt and three other accused first attacked Singh with an axe and then threw stones at him as he ran across the field for cover. According to a video clip doing the rounds, the inspector’s body can be seen in a Tata Sumo vehicle while protesters recorded the scene. Shots could be heard in the background.

What led to this violence

The mob also torched the chowki and a police van, while demanding ‘immediate action’ and justice in the alleged slaughtering of a cow last week.

The reported discovery of a cow carcass in Bulandshahr last month had fuelled Hindutva fringe groups to march to the nearest police chowki in Chingravathi. To control the situation, which was escalating quickly, policemen from the nearby Siyana station were also dispatched.

Besides Singh’s death, the violence that ensued resulted in the death of a local right-wing activist, while leaving several others injured. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) constituted by the administration probed into the source of the violence, and why the police personnel left the deceased officer alone.

An army man Jitendra Malik, also known as Jeetu Fauji, who was also suspected to be one of the main accused in the killing, was arrested on December 9 and is currently in judicial custody.

Why it matters

Sixty unnamed perpetrators have been named in the FIR over the incident, which also mentions reports of gunshots; four people have been arrested in connection to the violent protests. Another FIR has been filed over the alleged cattle slaughter, naming 27 people in it.

Singh had also probed the 2015 lynching of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri, UP, over claims of storing and consuming beef. This incident gained national traction and brought the violence related to gau raksha into the limelight.

The officer-in-charge of Noida’s Jarcha police station at the time, Singh is believed to have been instrumental in the prompt arrest of the accused.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius

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