The story behind the ‘Royal Encounter’ in Rajasthan

Since the incident took place almost ten years before internet arrived in India and even before Google became a part of our lives, the story of Raja Maan Singh, the royal scion of Bharatpur in Rajasthan, remains largely unknown to people.

The incident was pushed back into the spotlight this week when eleven policemen were sentenced to life imprisonment by a district court in Mathura for killing Raja Maan Singh, in a staged “encounter” 35 years ago.

The Mathura district and sessions court also imposed fines of Rs 10,000 on each of the accused.

According to reports, Raja Maan Singh, a seven-time independent MLA from Deeg, was contesting the election in 1985 as an independent.

Some Congress workers had torn up his posters and also the flag of his royal estate.

Maan Singh, who had never lost an election after Independence, was enraged and crashed his jeep into the helicopter of the then Rajasthan chief minister, Shiv Charan Mathur.

Mathur was in Bharatpur to campaign for retired bureaucrat Vijendra Singh, who was fielded by the Congress party against Raja Maan Singh. This was on February 20, 1985.

A case was lodged against the Raja at the Deeg police station and the following day, when he was on his way to his constituency Deeg for an election rally, he was shot dead by police personnel who had blocked the road following a curfew order.

Two other men – Sumer Singh and Hari Singh – had also lost their lives in the alleged encounter.

Raja Maan Singh was an extremely popular leader in his constituency and thousands turned up to attend his cremation.

In the course of the hearings — the case moved from Rajasthan to UP in 1990 after Singh’s family approached the Supreme Court about the possible influence Congress could wield over the proceedings. More than 200 witnesses were produced in the case.

Initially probed by the local police, the case was later handed over to the CBI for investigation and its trial was shifted to Mathura on the Supreme Court orders.

The defence lawyer, Nand Kishore Upamanyu, had sought minimum sentence for the cops. They were all retired, suffering from multiple ailments, and had not got promotions, pay revisions because they had been suspended, he argued.

“All of them were found guilty under Section 149 (unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object) of the IPC. Hence, the minimum sentence should be awarded,” he told the court.

The accused are all over 60 now — former DSP Kan Singh Bhati is 82.

The sum collected from the convicted police personnel as fine will be used to pay compensations of Rs 2,000 each to four persons injured in the clash between police and Singh, the day he was killed.

Another Rs 30,000 will go to each relative of those who died – Singh and his two associates, Thakur Hari Singh and Thakur Sumer Singh.

“Justice has been served,” said Singh’s daughter Krishnendra Kaur Deepa, a former minister in Rajasthan, told local reporters.

“Though we have got delayed justice, I am happy that guilty persons have ultimately been convicted,” she said.

Deepa, a member of the Bharatpur royal family, is a multiple-term member of the Rajasthan Assembly.

Deepa and her husband, Vijay, were among family members who attended the proceedings, the last in 35 years of a legal battle fought out in Rajasthan and then UP.

Vijay was with Singh the day he was shot after he had driven his vehicle straight into then Rajasthan Chief Minister’s helicopter.