New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh police heightened security across the Saharanpur district on Wednesday, May 24 after one person died and several were injured in fresh clashes between members of the Thakur community and Dalits in three villages of the region on Tuesday, according to Hindustan Times.
The communally sensitive region of Saharanpur has been rocked by inter-caste violence since April. On Tuesday, May 23, some Dalits allegedly set fire to the homes of 12 Rajputs in Shabbirpur village ahead of Mayawati’s visit, which led to increased tensions between the two communities. The intervention of the police prevented a flare-up at the time.
According to an Outlook report, during her visit to Shabbirpur village, the BSP chief blamed the BJP-led UP government for the continuing violence and said that they had failed to stop their own party brigades from inciting clashes.
Violence erupted when an angry mob, carrying swords and guns, attacked a car filled with BSP supporters from Sarsawa village who had come to attend Mayawati’s rally. The ensuing clashes led to the killing of a Dalit man from a bullet wound. Another two were critically injured and have been admitted to a hospital, NDTV reported.
As the news of the death of the Dalit man spread, protests by members of the community erupted in other areas, which led to damaging of shops and forcing the closure of markets.
In other clashes, Dalits were attacked in two different places near Chandpura village by unidentified people.
UP chief minister Adityanath has ordered a four-member team to take up the enquiries and visit the spot. Additional companies of police forces were rushed to Saharanpur after mounting tensions; NDTV reported that two senior police officers have been suspended and 30 have been arrested in connection with the violence. The police have launched a massive search operation and more than 20 people have been charged with incitement of violence, according to Hindustan Times. Senior state officials have also been ordered to camp in the area till tensions recede.
Hindustan Times also reported that the district magistrate N.P. Singh said the state government had paid a compensation of Rs 15 lakh to the Dalit man’s family and Rs 50,000 to the other injured. Adityanath termed the incident as unfortunate and offered his condolences to the family of the deceased, according to a PTI report.
According to NDTV, the UP government issued a statement, blaming Mayawati’s visit to the area for the fresh violence. “It was expected that the visit of the former chief minister would help restore peace in Saharanpur but this has not happened and it’s sad. Peace had been restored in Saharanpur but the former chief minister’s visit led to tension followed by the unfortunate incident where one person has died,” the statement said.
This is not the first instance of violence in the region. In the last three weeks, there have been numerous clashes in Saharanpur district, particularly in Shabbirpur village. According to reports, Saharanpur district has 26% Dalit population and 10% Thakurs. But Shabbirpur has a total population of 4,000 that includes 2,500 Thakurs and 600 Dalits, a lopsided number that has many Dalits worried.
On May 5, Dalits and Thakurs clashed in Shabbirpur over the ‘Shobha Yatra’ to mark the birth anniversary of Rajput king Maharana Pratap. According to PTI, Dalits complained that the celebration was taking place without the required permission and protested, which then led to an eruption of violence in which a Dalit man was killed and 15 injured.
The Wire earlier reported that tensions remained high for a few days after the killing as angry Dalits set fire to houses of Thakurs in Shabbirpur, a police post and several vehicles in Saharanpur.
The Dalits were particularly unhappy that they had been prevented from installing a statue of Ambedkar. Mayawati on Tuesday said that the incident would not have occurred if the administration had allowed both the statue and the procession, and that the Dalits were merely reacting to the discrimination, Outlook reported.
May 9 also saw angry protests by Dalits when they torched a bus after they were prevented from holding a mahapanchayat to demand compensation for those affected in the May 5 inter-caste clashes.
On Sunday, a large mass of Dalit rights activists gathered at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar to protest against the caste based violence in UP. Approximately 5,000 people participated in the protest, all wearing blue caps, a mark of the Ambedkar movement.
(With PTI inputs)