Swadheen Bharat Subhas Sena

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Swadheen Bharat Subhas Sena: An overview; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, June 4, 2016
The clash of 2016; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, June 4, 2016

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


A backgrounder

The Times of India, June 3, 2016

The radical group of squatters behind the deadly violence in Mathura on Thursday claims loyalty to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and wants to alter the political and economic landscape of India.

But deep down, its ambition primarily was to grab government-owned prime real estate in this Hindu holy city and create an empire of their own in the growing market-mix of politics and sprituality.

The ragtag army of the little known Swadheen Bharat Subhas Sena, allegedly led by Ram Vriksha Singh Yadav, a disciple of Mathura-based Tulsidas Maharaj also known as "Jai Gurudev", had been occupying Mathura's sprawling 300-acre Jawaharbagh since January 2014. The group, which calls itself "satyagrahis" or revolutionaries, began staying in the park on the pretext of staging demonstrations. The protests had started as part of a rally from Madhya Pradesh that was supposed to terminate at Delhi. The rallyists were denied permission to move on to the capital but were allowed to hold the demonstration at the park -- which once had thousands of mango, gooseberry, and berry trees -- but only for two days.

The rallyists, however, stayed on and encroached the park for two years, during which they felled the trees to facilitate the shanty town of thousands of protesters from eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. According to police, there were 3,000 of them living inside the park where their leader Ram Vriksha Singh Yadav, who is now untraceable, ran a "parallel government", amassing a huge cache of arms and ammunition. Police claimed to have recovered some 47 country-made pistols, six rifles and 178 live cartridges from the park after the bloodshed on Thursday saw 24 persons, including a superintendent of police and 22 encroachers, killed. A police officer told IANS on condition of anonymity that the squatters had also managed illegal electricity and water connections and had built toilets by destroying pavements. They would pick fights with any outsider trying to enter the park. All this was happening right under the nose of the authorities. The district magistrate's office and the police line complex are at a stone's throw from the park.

Ram Vriksha Singh Yadav, the cult leader on the run, is a known disciple of "Jai Gurudev" who was said to have left behind a Rs 12,000-crore empire after his death. This sparked a leadership tussle between three claimants -- Ram Vriksha Singh Yadav, Pankaj Yadav and Umakant Tiwari. The empire included land worth Rs 4,000 crore, a school, a petrol pump in Mathura - all in the name of the "Jai Gurudev Trust". His fleet of luxury cars included Plymouths, Mercedes Benz, Skodas and BMWs. Pankaj Yadav won the battle, and Ram Vriksha Singh Yadav fell apart with him and led his own faction of Gurudev followers to create another empire on the grabbed government land.

During 2013-15, he became so powerful that even the administration could not touch him and get the park vacated. He even allegedly held hostage a government officer who had gone to inquire about the group inside the cluster of slums and semi-permanent structures. The group had been raising demands like no prime minister elections and establishment of an "Azad Hind government", a kind of dictatorial set. They also demanded the rule book of Subhas Chandra Bose's Indian National Army to be treated as the law of the land and used for governance in the country. They wanted the currency notes used by Azad Hind Fauj, or the Indian National Army which fought the British Empire with the Japanese help, to be printed again with Bose's name and brought back into circulation.

They wanted petrol and diesel to be priced at one rupee a litre, and above all the park to be handed over to them permanently.

But curtains came down violently on the 30-month old "revolution" after police stormed the park on Thursday and were showered with bullets by squatters. Some 250 of them have been arrested, and the rest have run away.

Salient facts

The Times of India, 4 June, 2016

News is slowly trickling out about the bizarre cults - who claim to owe allegiance to Netaji Subhas Bose. The cults' members allegedly initiated the violent clashes in Mathura on Thursday evening that killed 24 people including two policemen. The cults, Azad Bharat Vidhik Vaicharik Kranti Satyagrahi and the Swadheen Bharat Subhas Sena, might even be just one group with the Sena as the militant arm of the Satyagrahi. It's unclear. They have a roster of decidedly odd demands, including the discontinuation of the Indian currency and the sale of fuel at prices - that they quote in rupees. Here's what we know about them:

1. The Azad Bharat Vidhik Vaicharik Kranti Satyagrahi and Swadheen Bharat Subhash Sena have been camped at the 300-acre Jawahar park since January 2014, reports say.

2. According to police, there were 3,000 of them living inside the park where their leader Ram Vriksha Singh Yadav, who is now untraceable, ran a "parallel government".

3. The Sena is reportedly led by a Ram Vriksha Singh Yadav - on the run, currently - who is a disciple of someone called Tulsidas Maharaj. The latter also responded to Jai Gurudev, presumably no relation to The Beatles's Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

4. Gurudev, aka Maharaj, is said to have amassed a Rs 12,000 crore empire until his death. No information is available on when he died. His empire is said to have included land worth Rs 4,000 crore, a school and a petrol pump in Mathura. All these properties are apparently registered in the name of the 'Jai Gurudev Trust'.

5. Gurudev liked his cars and he liked them luxurious. He reportedly owned many cars from the likes of Plymouth, Mercedes Benz and BMW.

6. His death led to a 'leadership' void. Three people - the aforementioned Ram Vriksha Singh Yadav, and two others called Pankaj Yadav and Umakant Tiwari - wanted to lead the Sena. Pankaj won and Ram Vriksha started his own faction of Gurudev followers to create another empire on land "grabbed" either from or by the government, it's unclear.

7. That land that has been "grabbed" is Mathura's Jawahar park. In the last two years, Ram Vriksha's became very powerful, IANS says. He once allegedly held hostage a government officer who had gone to inspect the park.

8. Azad Bharat Vidhik Vaicharik Kranti Satyagrahi member call themselves satyagrahis, or seekers of truth.

9. The Satyagarhi group wants to the discontinuation of the Indian rupee. They wanted the currency notes used by Azad Hind Fauj, or the Indian National Army to be the currency of India.

10. The Sena and the Satyagrahi want 40 litres of petrol for Rs 1 and 60 litres of diesel also for Rs 1.

The armed commune within Jawahar Park

The Times of India, Jun 06 2016

Anuja Jaiswal

Jawahar Bagh, once known for its lush orchards has turned up a large haul of weapons, ammunition and what police term a functional bomb-making unit.

What remains indicates how the 260-acre park was turned into a personal empire by Swadheen Bharat Subhas Sena's leader Ram Vriksha Yadav and his armed followers, who had stocked provisions and material for what they evidently expected to be a long siege. In a large makeshift struc ture that functioned as a community kitchen, utensils lie scattered. A generator and several batteries and inverters, as well as solar panels, show how the group managed after electricity was cut off two months ago. Remnants of clothes, pro visions, books and com ics can be seen in various structures in Jawahar Bagh, including government offices which existed inside the park before the group took over. The remains indicate how the cult members were fully prepared to live in “a world of their own“.

Of the finds, the most striking are the extensive stores of weapons and ammunition. Investigators have also recovered 5 kg of sulphur, 1 kg of potassium as well as nearly 2.5 kg gunpowder.This, said officials, indicates the cult had a functioning bomb manufacturing unit inside the park. “The batteries seem to have been used to run solar panels,“ said Mathura SP (rural) Arun Singh.

The park also appeared to have a makeshift `supermar ket', with large quantities of food and unused tents. Separate toilet facilities for men and women, as well as a small Shiva temple were also inside the park. According to locals, for the past few months, SBSS members had been selling vegetables inside the enclosure at very cheap rates and locals from nearby colonies had started frequenting it.

“Classes for the children who lived inside the compound used to be held in full public view. We used to see the group's members being trained in firearms and unarmed combat,“ said a resident of Mathura district.

1975: Gurudev’s bluff is called

The Times of India, Jun 04 2016

Akashdeep Ashok 

 On January 23, 1975, Subhash Chandra Bose's 78th birth anniversary , Phoolbagh in Kanpur was packed with thousands of people waiting to see Netaji's “resurrection“. They had been promised that Bose would resurface on the said day. After hours of suspense, an ageing man with a white beard, appeared on the dais.Shouts went up from a corner of the audience: “Netaji zindabad“! The crowd stood quiet in disbelief. But when `Netaji' began to speak, a volley of shoes and stones were aimed at him.Jai Gurudev ran for cover, but he was caught and thrashed severely by the crowd, outraged at the betrayal. Had police not whisked the imposter away , he'd have been lynched. That was the end of Jai Gurudev's tryst as Netaji's doppelganger. But it certainly wasn't the end of his brush with controversy . In the 1980s, he founded the `Doordarshi Party' and in the 1989 elections, fielded 298 candidates in UP , Bihar, MP and Bengal. The party drew a blank. It tried for two decades without any success, fi nally disappearing without a trace.

But all through his experiments, Gurudev made money -lots of it, most of it land. When the self-proclaimed godman died on May 18, 2012, his assets were said to be a massive Rs 4,000 crore. There was Rs 100cr in cash and over 250 luxury cars worth Rs 150 crore.Donations, claimed the ashram.But years earlier, in year 2000, the UP State Industrial Development Corporation had filed 16 cases in Mathura's courts accusing the godman's ashram of encroaching on hundreds of acres of industrial land. The same year, the regional archaeological survey office al leged that Gurudev's disciples had damaged 14 mounds of historical importance by “digging in search of ancient artefacts“ or “(while trying to) construct an ashram“.

The ASI said no artefact had been handed over to government.Then Mathura district magistrate, Sanjeev Mittal, said he received 23 complaints from farmers, alleging their land was forcibly taken over by the ashram.

The Jawahar Bagh `encroachment' clearly was nothing new for the group.

2012: Yadav creates group after Gurudev's death

The Times of India, Jun 04 2016

Aditya Dev & Anuja Jaiswal

The squatters at Jawhar Bagh were told Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose would visit them in two months and that would change the course of history . Some 50-odd wounded Swadheen Bharat Subhas Sena `satyagrahis', undergoing treatment at the S N Medical College, had startling stories to tell. Supply lines to the Jawahar Bagh commune were snapped over two months ago and the inmates lived on gruel and khichdi.

Their leaders had asked them to be patient and continue their agitation a little longer before Bose reappeared to lead them from the “wilderness that India finds itself in“. These leaders, called Premis, stopped the satyagrahis from breaking ranks and leaving.

Most had no idea of the movement stood for. Daya Shankar, 87, a Gorakhpur resident, said: “We had been giving wheat and rice to Jai Gurudev for more than 30 years. Later, Ram Vriksh Yadav formed this new group. Reportedly , Yadav had claimed in Supreme Court that he'd produce Netaji in front of people, and if he could not do so he should be hanged.“

Yadav floated the group after Gurudev's death in 2012 and was soon leading an aggressive 1,000-strong cult. He is charged in eight criminal cases of land grabbing and arson. He was arrested in September 2013 after a clash with the police. Incidentally , a Bareilly court, on Friday , issued a bailable warrant against Yadav in the same case.

Shankar added that Jai Gurudev died in 2012, a year later his followers were told he was Netaji himself and still alive.“Ram Vriksha Yadav asked us to stay here in the enclosure and bide our time till Netaji returned,“ he said.

The 3,000-strong militiastyle cult followers, police said, began their “movement“ in January 2014 with a “sandesh yatra“ from Sagar in MP to spread their message -establishment of an Azad Hind government, cancellation of the posts of President and PM and derecognition of the rupee.

They travelled through Gujarat, Bengal, Maharashtra and Odisha and finally occupied Jawahar Bagh. The followers are mainly natives of UP, Bihar and MP.

Yadav, the satyagrahis said, kept to himself and occasionally interacted with followers.The squatters had no interaction with the world outside.They would wake up at 3 am, and after a bath, prayers and breakfast, would idle away the rest of the day. Dinner was served at 5 pm.

Mathura SSP Rakesh Kumar told TOI that two satyagrahis recently sneaked out of the “camp“ and approached police for help to return to their native Siddharth Nagar district in UP. Kumar said they were running a government inside the parkand had recently burnt nearly 2,400 trees.

The takeover of Jawahar Bagh

The Times of India, Jun 04 2016

Avijit Ghosh

Every day at 8 am, Jawahar Bagh Colony residents woke up to Netaji zindabad slogans and revolutionary songs such as Sankalpa hai shahidon ka. “Morning alarm,“ says homemaker Premlata Sharma.

From the rooftops of some colony homes, where government servants live, the view of the Jawahar Bagh is clear. Colony residents recall how the orchard gradually became home to protestors who conducted morning marches, peddled vegetables, spices, clothes and utensils at throwaway prices, who had solar panels, tractors, generators and ran their own kitchen.

The squatters raised cattle, owned an atta-chakki and went to makeshift toilets. A witness said that though their huts looked ramshackle, they had neat interiors. SUVs such as Safaris and Fortuners drove in and out.

Initially there were only a few dozen occupants but the numbers swelled to thousands. “ A bunch of 30-40 came on March 15, 2014. I heard they had permission to stay a couple of days.But they never left,“ says Premlata.

She remembers the date because the next day was Holi. “Slowly they grew in numbers and their behaviour changed for the worse. They menacingly pointed towards us with lathis and warned people to get off rooftops,“ she remembers.

Another homemaker Kanchan Yadav says the squatters spoke a different language, not the local brajbhasha. “They seemed to be from east UP ,“ she said. Some were from Lakhimpur Kheri, or Balia and Ghazipur. A few were from Jhansi too. Sometimes the interaction between the squatters and the colonywallahs was positive. “Once when they sold sugar for Rs 20 a kg, there were queues of buyers.“

The occupants eventually had to wage a lengthy court battle with the district administration for the orchard. Things spun out of control on Thursday; two policemen, including an SP , and at least 22 squatters died.

Witnesses claimed the shots fired by the occupants were accurate because they were aimed from trees where they had a clear view of the police. Jawahar Bagh is in the heart of Mathura's administrative district.Every government office is barely a few hundred metres from here.

“Even a few days back, when the police asked them to vacate, they shouted back: himmat ho to karvai karo, yeh zameen hamari hai,“ another resident said.

Splinter groups

The Times of India, Jun 04 2016

Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui & Deshdeep Saxena| 

Jai Gurudev's follower Ram Vriksha Yadav became UP police's most wanted man. Yadav led the self-styled `satyagrahi' cult that resorted to violence killing two cops and at least 21 others. The question is: is he absconding or was he killed during the violence? The native of Mathiya Mauja village in UP's Ghazipur, Yadav joined Jai Gurudev in 1972, was jailed with his mentor during Emergency , and -says his fellow villager Sudama Yadav -“was drawing his Loktantra Senani pension till he moved to Mathura two years ago.“ The exploits of Jai Gurudev's cult are being keenly followed by another group in Ujjain that claims to be the “true followers“ and is headed by Yadav's bitter rival Umakant Tiwari.

“The violent ones in Mathura can never be baba's true followers,“ Rohitanshya Yadav, a Tiwari supporter, told TOI over phone. Rohitanshya is a retired executive engineer of Rajasthan electricity board and he runs Tiwari's ashram in Ujjain. Jai Gurudev's key associates -fighting over the man's property -are believed to be based in three places: His ex-driver Pankaj Yadav mans the ashram on the Delhi-Mathura highway; the splinter Subhash Sena occupied Jawahar Bagh; and the third is the Ujjain group.

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