Shrikant Tyagi is a wanted man. Shrikant Tyagi is a protected man.
The BJP leader shot to infamy after he was caught on video of the Grand Omaxe society in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, on August 5. The party sought to disown him, but . Shrikant absconded but was arrested from Meerut four days later on a charge of “assaulting a woman with intent to outrage her modesty” and under the Goonda Act. While Shrikant was on the run, the Noida Authority dispatched bulldozers to demolish illegally constructed extensions to his apartment.
But no sooner had Shrikant been arrested that his community came out in force to defend and “protect” him. The Tyagi Brahmins held a series of panchayats in Hapur, Muzaffarnagar and Meerut in western UP, denouncing the police for projecting Shrikant as a criminal, sending bulldozers to his flat and allegedly harassing his family.
“If they keep harassing Shrikant Tyagi this way, then the entire Tyagi community of western UP will gherao the Grand Omaxe society with 1,000 tractor trolleys,” Shekhar Tyagi, executive member of the Tyagi Brahmin Hostel, which held one of the panchayats in Meerut, threatened. “His family is being harassed over what was a trivial spat. It was wrong of Srikant to abuse the woman, our community doesn’t condone his behaviour. Whatever legal action such behaviour warrants should be taken, but tormenting his family is wrong.”
The outpouring of support for Shrikant from his community puts the BJP in a spot. The Tyagi Brahmins have traditionally voted for the BJP. Since they wield considerable socioeconomic and political influence in western UP, the party can’t afford to upset them. Worryingly for the BJP then, posters calling for a boycott of the party have started appearing in Tyagi villages in recent days.
One poster in Muzaffarnagar declares, “This is the historic village of Sohanjani Tagan, the village of Tyagis. BJP leaders are banned from entering. Boycott BJP. Voting lotus was a mistake.”
Another poster on social media calls Tyagi Brhamins to march from Meerut to Noida on August 13 in “honor of Shrikant Tyagi”.
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Shekhar from the Tyagi Brahmin Hostel said the community wasn’t opposed to the police’s action against Shrikant but believed that he didn’t deserve to be booked under the Goonda Act. “Also,” he added, “that woman was provoking Shrikant, daring him to touch her. Action should be taken against her for instigating Shrikant. If such an action is not taken, the Tyagi community will gherao the Omaxe society.”
Shubham Tyagi, a local BJP functionary in Meerut, who attended the Tyagi Brahmin Hostel panchayat, said if the Goonda Act charges against Shrikant weren’t dropped, Tyagis from nearly 200 villages would take their tractors and surround the Grand Omaxe Society. “Meetings are being held all over western UP. We will soon hold a big meeting and decide about Omaxe gherao. Shrikant ji has been wronged. Our community is entirely with Shrikant ji's wife and children,” Shubham added. “The BJP and their Noida MP Mahesh Sharma have tarnished the Tyagi community’s name. That is why we are demanding action against Mahesh Sharma as well. I have been working for the BJP for 10 years, but my community comes first for me. In Meerut, 150 to 200 young people from the Tyagi community like me work for the BJP. We will all resign from the party.”
The MP had admonished the police for allowing Tyagi’s alleged henchmen inside Omaxe to intimidate the residents. The Tyagi community is also angry with the MP for “painting Shrikant as a criminal in front of the media”.
Vikrant Tyagi, another local BJP leader in Meerut, said they had resolved not to let any Tyagi Brahmin “meet Srikant Tyagi’s fate”.
“Our community is foremost for us, the party comes later. I’m the mandal head of BJP Yuva Morcha in Kithor assembly constituency. We accept that Shrikant Tyagi did wrong. They can slap the penal section for abusing a woman against him, but not the Goonda Act. They have made out to be a gangster and carried out demolition at his home,” he said. “Mahesh Sharma also abused the commissioner, but no action was taken against him. We will file an FIR against Mahesh Sharma. We are hurt by his remarks. The media too is defaming the Tyagi community. Does one become a gangster simply by abusing someone?”
The Tyagis are especially angry about the demolition at Shrikant’s home. “We are deeply hurt by the bulldozer action,” said Shubham. “We are happy with Yogi Adityanath’s good work. He’s demolishing the mafia with his bulldozers. Illegal properties must be razed. Our community is very happy. But if the bulldozers are turned towards our homes, we’ll be devastated.”
Shekhar nodded in agreement, “The balcony of Shrikant’s home was demolished with a bulldozer. Sweets were distributed and people clapped as if he was a gangster. We cannot tolerate this,” he said.
In Ghaziabad, the Akhil Bhartiya Tyagi Brahmin Mahasabha held a panchayat and later gave a memorandum for the chief minister to the police chief. “Shrikant Tyagi has been pushed to the wall. The Tyagi community is being maligned by calling Shrikant a gangster,” the Mahasabha said in a press release. “If our demands aren’t met, we’ll be forced to stage a fierce protest.”
Asked what he made of the Tyagi panchayats and the community’s outpouring of support for Shrikant Tyagi, the BJP’s Meerut district chief, Vimal Sharma, said, “I don’t know about any BJP leader who attended these meetings. Our party has nothing to do with their statements. Any leader of our party who joins such panchayats will be thrown out.”
A was originally published on Newslaundry Hindi.