Uttar Pradesh: Shobhapur in Meerut on verge of caste conflict

Threat of a serious caste conflict has gripped Shobhapur village in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh since the gruesome killing of a young and upcoming Dalit leader after the Bharat Bandh on April 2

NH Photos
NH Photos

Aas Mohd Kaif

Shobhapur in Jharkhand, where three persons accused of stealing children were brutally beaten to death, has already dimmed the prestige of the nation. There is a Shobhapur in Uttar Pradesh too, also in the news for all the wrong reasons

Two routes from the Delhi-Pauri highway lead to Shobhapur village in Meerut District, which has a population of about 5,000. After the Bharat Bandh organised by Dalits on April 2, one young and upcoming Dalit leader of the village was shot to death. Tension and threat of a serious caste conflict have gripped this village after the gruesome killing.

On the day of Bharat Bandh, the village police station was set on fire. The police FIR claims that many important things kept in the police station like arms and uniforms were burnt during the incident. After the police station, other incidents of violence and arson took place in Meerut, Hapur and Muzaffarnagar. The Dalits of Shobhapur are known for not bowing down to the upper castes and therefore, small incidents of conflict between Dalits and an upper caste community present here in large numbers, keep taking place.

This conflict has been going on for about 20 years and had started with a quarrel during a cricket match. The quarrel had taken a serious turn and a person was subsequently killed.

The young man who was killed this time was Gopi Periya. His father Tarachand Periya had contested the local councillor election on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket, but lost to a candidate from the same community. Gopi Periya was one of the closest supporters of former BSP MLA Yogesh Varma, who became a prime target of the Meerut police after the Bandh. The young Dalits of Shobhapur used to admire and follow Gopi Periya. Varma, husband of the present BSP Mayor of Meerut Sunita Varma, is now in jail and Gopi Periya has been murdered. Most of the Dalit youth of the village have since left the village.

Six bullets were pumped into Gopi Periya and even after being shot, he ran about 200 metres before succumbing to his wounds. The Dalits of Shobhapur believe that Gopi was a symbol of courage and encouragement for them and, they say, after his death it feels as if all the Dalits of the village have been killed.

Gopi was at the forefront of organising a rally during the Bharat Bandh. He allegedly was leading the rally at the time that the police station was torched. Gopi’s brother Prashant told National Herald, “My brother always actively took part in any work in the society and community and that’s why he was seen as a threat. After Bharat Bandh, a list of 83 youths was circulated in WhatsApp and my brother’s name was the first in the list. All the youths mentioned in the list were Dalits. My name was at the fifth number. This was discussed in social media that the young men in the list have been very active during Bharat Bandh and so they will be ‘treated’ accordingly. After a few hours of this list, Gopi Bhai was murdered.”

Dalits flee, despite stepped-up security

The police have arrested two of the five people booked for Gopi’s murder. All the accused belong to the dominant community in Shobhapur village. Gopi’s father Tarachand says “My son was shot with a pistol while the police have shown that a country made ‘tamancha’ was recovered, because the police empathy lies with the murderer.”

A local resident told NH on the condition of anonymity that the group opposing the Dalits had given this list to the police after the Bharat Bandh violence, so that the police could take action against them. As soon as Gopi came to know about it, he objected to this. An argument ensued and Gopi was murdered. Since a ‘handyman’ of the police has been accused of the murder, the police allegedly have a soft corner for him. That is why the police did not have any problem in arresting the accused, who were reportedly literally handed over to the police by a leader.

The administration has said that one of the accused, Manoj, belongs to Samajwadi Party, though the district in charge of Samajwadi Party has denied it completely. He said, “Manoj Chaudhary has never had any connection with the Samajwadi Party. He was never a member nor did he ever hold any post in the party. This kind of publicity is completely false.”

After this incident, caste tension has increased in the area. As it is, Meerut’s history is soaked in the blood of animosity between these two communities. In a violent clash, dozens of people had died in Hastinapur. Devendra Singh (56) of Hastinapur says, “ There is the same streak of tension after 30 years.”

Meerut administration has sensed the poison in the air and strict security arrangements have been put in place. A huge police force has been deployed in Shobhapur village. However, the Dalit youths have run away even from the villages where Dalits are in majority. Things are heating up.

Translated from Hindi by Pragati Saxena

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