Three days after a curfew was placed in Lateri tehsil of Vidisha district, tension prevailed in the region on Wednesday but the situation was under control, police said.

The curfew was placed on Sunday amid a standoff between local residents and VHP members — who had visited the tehsil that day — over an ongoing anti-encroachment demolition drive.

The police have registered a case under sections 147, 148, 149, 427 & 336 of the IPC and about 15 local residents were rounded up for questioning.

The drive was kicked-off after a 48-year-old resident of Murwas village, Santram Valmiki, alleged that families were encroaching upon forest department land. According to district collector Pankaj Jain, the families living on the land were issued notices on March 9 and the demolition process started on March 16. However, Valmiki was run down by a tractor on March 18.

Faqeer Ahmed, a resident of the same village, and his four sons were arrested.

According to local residents and community leader Anees-ur-Rahman, hours after Valmiki’s death, BJP MLA from Sironj constituency, Umakant Sharma, visited the village and his workers allegedly made objectionable remarks about those being evicted.

Sharma said the allegations that those who passed the comments were his men was a conspiracy of Congress leaders. “I went there as I was getting constant calls from families as there were Hindus there who were in distress after the murder of Santram Valmiki… Had the district administration taken appropriate actions and imposed a curfew, I would not have gone.”

According to local residents, on Sunday, two teams of the VHP visited the site of the demolition drive and began instructing the officers not to “spare anyone”. But Murwas police station town inspector, Anirudh Pandey, said the families which were affected by the demolition drive were sitting on the street with their belongings when VHP members visited the site and told officers to ensure all encroachments are removed. It irked the families and they reportedly hurled stones on the VHP men and also blocked the road in protest. The residents alleged that the VHP men fired in the air.

VHP’s state spokesperson Jitendra Chouhan said, “The members had gone to offer condolences to the Valmiki family when their vehicles were pelted with stones. Although no one suffered grievous injuries, they were targeted.”

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