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DM Sahib, Why Have You Arrested and Imprisoned My District President?: Mulayam Singh Yadav

An extract from Anil Swarup’s forthcoming book, ‘Encounters with Politicians’ This is the first part of the extract from the chapter on Mulayam Singh Yadav The second part will follow next week
Indian Masterminds Stories

Mulayam Singh Yadav had once visited my office sometime in 1987. I was then Additional Registrar, Cooperative Societies in UP. He was just an MLA then. I had forgotten about it but he remembered the details of that meeting when I went to call on him on 27th of February, 1990 after having been posted as District Magistrate. He recounted that I had not done the work that he had asked of me but I had treated him well and I enjoyed a good reputation as an officer.

As Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh visited Lakhimpur-Kheri on 26th of May, 1990. I witnessed another aspect of his personality as I wrote in my diary, “I was impressed with his sense of humour”. He too seemed to be impressed with what I was doing in the District. He praised me publicly.

However, not long thereafter, the atmosphere in the state was undergoing a change and Lakhimpur to was being impacted with what was happening in the country. Since 1990 the country was facing an unprecedented crisis on account of the ‘Rath Yatra’ (Chariot Tour) being taken out by Lal Krishna Advani, a leader of the Bhartiya Janata Party, to advocate the construction of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya. As Ayodhya was in Uttar Pradesh, the State had become the epicentre of all allied agitations. In fact, it had escalated into a law-and-order menace in almost all the districts of the State. All Districts surrounding Lakhimpur Kheri had been put under curfew (which is an order issued under section 144 of the CRPC, restricting the congregation and management of people).

The reason why this restrictive measure wasn’t adopted in Lakhimpur Kheri was primarily on account of the trust that the residents of Lakhimpur had in the administration. And on the behalf of the administration, we ensured that any mischief was dealt with firmly without any fear or favour, including those involving people and issues connected with the ruling party.
Against this backdrop a murder took place. It was purely a criminal act. But the District President of the ruling party wanted to make political capital out of it by taking out a funeral procession. If allowed, this could have been a recipe for disaster and would have led to communal riots as was the case in neighbouring districts. Permission to take out the procession was denied.

However, as the District President insisted on taking out the procession, he was arrested and put behind bars under the provisions relating to preventive detention. Though this arrest took care of the law-and-order issues, it didn’t go down well with the ruling party.

Those were the days when the only industry flourishing in the state was the transfer-industry. I was, however, prepared to face the consequences but determined not to allow the district to slip into chaos.

It was late that night when I received a call from Mulayam Singh who was still the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. He sounded quite agitated. He got down to business immediately without bothering to exchange the usual pleasantries. “DM sahib, why have you arrested and imprisoned my District President?” he asked straight away. My response was equally forthright, “Sir, a murder had taken place and he insisted on taking out a funeral procession that would have destroyed the peace in the city. Given the charged atmosphere, it would have led to communal riots. I tried to persuade him not to take out the procession but he was not relenting. Hence, we had no option but to arrest him in the interest of sustaining peace.”

There was a brief pause at the other end but he came up with another question “Isn’t there some other way?” I was firm but polite in responding, “Sir, had there been some other way, we would not have arrested him. The only possible way now is for someone from Lucknow to speak to him so that he doesn’t insist on taking out a procession. We can then release him.” I carried on, “Sir, you are aware that Lakhimpur Kheri is the only district where we haven’t had to impose curfew as everyone believes that we will take action without any favour”.

There was yet another pause before he responded, “Theek hai (okay),” and disconnected the call.

Later on, I learnt that he apparently spoke to the District President himself. Consequently, the local chief agreed not to take out the funeral procession. The dead was buried in the dead of the night. The chief was released promptly the next day.

Lakhimpur remained peaceful even during the trying period of the Babri Masjid agitation. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I was awarded for handling the law and order in the district adroitly by the CM himself. Peace in the district could be maintained on account of an absolutely amazing team of officers comprising the likes of Harish Chandra Singh, Superintendent of Police; Rudra Pratap Singh, Sub-Divisional Magistrate; R K Chaturvedi, Circle Officer and many others. The team also ensured that we lived up to the expectations of the residents of the district.


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