A routine trip to the local sports club in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur district turned into a nightmare for TV journalist Devesh Tyagi, 55, when he was in a road rage incident. Chaudhary Ghanshyam Singh, a local BJP leader and his aide have been named in the FIR along with 10 others. Both have been arrested by the police but the others are still absconding.
Chaudhary Ghanshyam Singh is former Block Pramukh (President) from Rampur Maniharan Nagar Panchayat in Saharanpur. He was previously associated with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). In October 2019, ahead of bypolls for Gangoh, an assembly constituency in Kairana Lok Sabha seat under Saharanpur, a mass exodus of BSP leadership had been . The entire BSP unit had joined Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) including Ghanshyam Singh who along with 24 BSP leaders switched their loyalties.
Journalists in Kanpur protesting against the assault on Devesh Tyagi.
Former BSP henchman and BJP leader is a history-sheeter
In a poster congratulating locals on the occasion of August 15, Chaudhary Ghanshyam Singh’s photo figures alongside Saharanpur’s BJP President, Mahendra Singh Saini. A local journalist from Saharanpur, who did not want to be named, told Newslaundry that a few months before the assault on Devesh Tyagi, Ghanshyam had beaten up another man, a constable’s brother, over a dispute. ‘While Ghanshyam was arrested even then, he was released owing to political pressure as the two parties agreed to a compromise," claimed the local journalist.
Poster featuring Chaudhary Ghanshyam Singh (extreme right)
According to Pradeep Kumar, a local leader from Saharanpur, Ghanshyam Singh has at least 20-25 cases filed against him. Pradeep had won the panchayat elections in 2015 on a Samajwadi Party ticket. “It was in 2011 when Ghanshyam Singh came to limelight after he became the Block Pramukh on a BSP ticket. He is known in the area for criminal activities,” said Pradeep. Most of the cases filed against Ghanshyam Singh are related to cases of illegal land grabbing.
Rampur Maniharan in Saharanpur is a reserved assembly constituency. Chaudhary Ghanshyam Singh was a close aide of former BSP MLA from here, Ravinder Kumar Molhu. The latter is known for his close ties with BSP chief Mayawati’s brother. A property dealer and member of the Hindu Yuva Vahini in Saharanpur told this reporter, “After the 2017 violence in Saharanpur between Rajputs and Dalits, BSP leadership was angry with Ravinder Kumar Molhu and Ghanshyam Singh for sympathizing with Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan.”
Dalit rights activist and Bhim Army chief, Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan, one of the accused in the violence, spent 15 months in jail. “Top BSP leadership was unhappy with both Molhu and Ghanshyam back then which eventually led to their exit from the party,” said the Yuva Vahini member. “Ghanshyam’s main business is centred around property and extortion,” he further added. It was due to his track record that some local BJP leaders were unhappy with the induction of Ghanshyam Singh in 2019.
A retired government officer in Saharanpur has been fighting a case related to illegal land acquisition since 2017. In 2012, the officer had given land on batai (rent) to Ghanshyam for cultivation. Ghanshyam Singh, the officer alleged, has been threatening and demanding that land be transferred in his name since then. “Political support is behind the rise of people like Ghanshyam who are eyeing the land owned by SC community or retired personnel like us. I received an extortion demand of ₹30,00,000 from Ghanshyam 15 days ago,” said the officer.
Ghanshyam Singh’s involvement in road rage case
On September 14, at around 8 pm, while journalist Devesh Tyagi (a stringer for News18 India) was headed towards the Ambedkar Stadium, a Maruti Swift car tried to drive through the space between Tyagi’s car and the vehicle in front of him. On being unable to do so, the driver of the Swift car lashed out at Tyagi saying, “Andha ho rakha hai kya? (Are you blind?)”
According to Tyagi, the first confrontation occurred at Kutcheri Bridge as one of the men in the Swift tried to pull him with his collar and hurled verbal abuses at him. It was after the traffic policeman intervened that the two men drove away. Before leaving, one of them allegedly told Tyagi, “Mera baap kaun hai jante ho? (Do you know who my father is?)”
Minutes later, Tyagi was overtaken by the same car near the city post office, forcing him to halt abruptly. This time a Scorpio with a BJP flag mounted on its bonnet was accompanying the Swift car. The Scorpio belonged to local BJP leader Chaudhary Ghanshyam Singh who along with his aides assaulted the journalist in the middle of road. One of Ghanshyam’s aides also tried to hit Devesh Tyagi with a baton. “Somehow I managed to save my life that day with great difficulty. Those behind this kind of hooliganism should be punished,” Tyagi told Newslaundry. He added he had no personal enmity with Ghanshyam Singh though “I’m aware of his credentials.”
After the video of assault on Twitter, at least five journalist associations in Kanpur, Bareilly, Bijnor, Moradabad and Shamli have raised concerns about the attack and demanded strict action against the perpetrators. An FIR has been filed under Sections 147, 141, 352, 323, 307 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code.
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