11 policemen, including a former Deputy Superintendent of Police (SP), were convicted yesterday by a court in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura in connection with the 1985 encounter of Raja Man Singh, the then titular head of Bharatpur, a princely state in Rajasthan.
The convicts have been awarded with the punishment of life imprisonment by the Mathura court after 35 years.
The encounter created ripples in the Indian political landscape, especially in Rajasthan, and led to the resignation of Congress chief minister Shiv Charan Mathur two days after the incident.
A charge sheet was filed by the CBI in the case accusing 18 police personnel; four of them died during the trial and 3 of them were acquitted by the court. The convicted police officials included Kan Singh Bhati who was the deputy SP of Deeg in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur.
Who was Raja Man Singh?
Raja Man Singh was the younger brother of the last ruler of Bharatpur, Maharaja Sawai Vrijendra Singh, and son of Maharaja Kishan Singh. He was born on December 5, 1921, and completed his engineering from England. He was seven-time Independent MLA from Deeg from 1952 to 1984.
Events that led to the killing of Raja Man Singh
During the Rajasthan Assembly elections in 1985, the Congress party had fielded a former IAS officer, Brijendra Singh, against Raja Man Singh, who was contesting as an independent candidate from the Deeg constituency. The Congress CM Shiv Charan Mathur was scheduled to address an election meeting in support of Brijendra Singh.
However, a scuffle broke out between the Congress workers and Raja Man Singh’s supporters after the former insulted the Bharatpur flag. Incensed by the affront, Raja Man Singh drove his Jeep into a stage set up for the then chief minister’s rally and later rammed his Jeep into a helicopter meant to transport the chief minister. This entire incident transpired on February 20, 1985.
The assassination of Raja Man Singh and its fallout
The following day, Raja Man Singh and two of his associates were on their way to the local police station to surrender when they were fired upon by a team of police led by Deputy Superintendent Kan Singh Bhati, one of the 11 convicts in the case. Singh and his two associates were killed on the spot.
As Raja Man Singh’s blatant assassination sent political tremors across Rajasthan, then Congress CM of the state, Shiv Charan Mathur tendered his resignation two days after the fateful encounter.
A week later, on February 28, the case was sent for CBI inquiry. The case was first heard in a Rajasthan Court but it was shifted to Mathura on a plea filed by Krishnendra Kaur Deepa, the daughter of Raja Man Singh. Deepa had served as Tourism Minister in the last BJP government in Rajasthan.
The judgment convicting the 11 police personnel involved in the brazen assassination of the ex-royal came after 1,700 hearings and 35 years of legal wrangling.
Connection between the ongoing political imbroglio in Rajasthan with Raja Man Singh case
The case also has a stark connection with the ongoing political crisis besieging the Congress government in Rajasthan. One of the 18 MLAs to side with Sachin Pilot in his rebellion against the CM Ashok Gehlot is Vishwendra Singh, who is the nephew of Raja Man Singh.
Singh and another rebel MLA-Bhanwar Lal Sharma–have both been suspended from the Congress party on the allegations that they had conspired with the BJP to bring down the Gehlot government in the state. Mr Singh on Monday came down hard against the Congress government in the state, claiming that it was trying to “murder democracy”.