Vice chancellor of prestigious agricultural university arrested amidst controversial circumstances

Dr. Lal’s arrest. (Photo: Circulated on Twitter)

In a shocking development, Dr. Rajendra Bihari Lal, the Vice Chancellor of Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences (SHUATS), was arrested and remanded to judicial custody on charges of attempted murder. The incident, which unfolded on 31 December 2023, involved allegations that two individuals accompanying Dr. Lal opened fire at the vehicle of former BJP leader Diwakar Nath Tripathi.

The complainant, Diwakar Nath Tripathi, detailed the morning of December 31 when he alleges an attempt on his life after returning from a morning walk at Arail Ghat with a friend of his. Tripathi claims that an SUV, carrying Lal and two others, overtook and attempted to stop his vehicle. According to Tripathi, threats and abuse ensued, culminating in gunfire and while he escaped unharmed, the glass of his car was reportedly shattered during the firing.

Lal was arrested from a guest house located near the university in Naini area hours after the filing of the fresh case under FIR Number 693 on December 31. He was taken to the district court amid tight security and produced in the court of ACJM Palak Ganguly. Later, on the orders of the court, he was sent to Naini central jail to 14-day judicial custody (JC). While the charges against Dr. Lal include attempted murder under sections 307, 504, and 427, sources close to him, speaking anonymously, suggest a more complex narrative.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sources at SHUATS contend that the arrest is part of a larger conspiracy and witch-hunt against the Vice Chancellor. The sources claim that Dr. Lal has become a target due to his perceived stance on issues, particularly those related to religious activities. Certain Hindu fundamentalist groups ostensibly with the blessings of the corridors of power seem to be behind the same, the sources allege.

Lal is already facing a litany of legal challenges, with a staggering 26 cases registered against him in various districts, including Prayagraj, Lucknow, Hamirpur, Fatehpur, and Pratapgarh. The charges against him range from illegal religious conversion to mass conversion, fake appointments, financial irregularities, illegal land transfer, fraudulent use of names and addresses, issuing threats, assault, and the most recent charge of attempted murder.

The sympathetic narrative surrounding Lal suggests that the Vice Chancellor has been a victim of persistent harassment. Those supporting him argue that he has faced continuous attacks due to his alleged involvement in the Yeshu Darbar (Royal Court of the Lord Jesus Christ) movement, which has drawn the ire of powerful political and religious factions. Dr. Lal is the founder and Bishop of the movement.

The recent arrest only adds to the already complicated legal battles surrounding Lal. Sources supporting him point to his previous legal victories, where relief was granted by both the Supreme Court and the Allahabad High Court in cases related to alleged forceful religious conversion. This, they claim, underscores the intricacies of the legal challenges faced by him.

Diwakar Nath Tripathi, the complainant in the attempted murder case, also alleges a history of animosity, stressing that Dr. Lal and his associates hold a grudge against him due to multiple cases he has filed. However, the sources supporting Dr. Lal argue that these accusations might be part of a broader strategy to discredit him and tarnish the reputation of SHUATS, a minority institution.

The situation is further complicated by the recent refusal of the Allahabad High Court to quash an FIR against Lal and other SHUATS officials related to alleged religious conversion. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court had granted interim protection to him in a case involving the forceful conversion of a woman to Christianity.

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