Saharanpur tense, Dalit-Thakur standoff simmers

The BJP is being blamed for inciting the latest round of violence in Saharanpur for political gains, since it couldn’t win any seat in the district in the recent UP Assembly elections

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

NH Political Bureau

Saharanpur continued to simmer on Friday, with the police arresting an unspecified number of people, but said to be mostly Dalits, on the charge of inciting people by sharing and spreading provocative content.

It has been a week since Rajputs and Dalits clashed in Shabbirpur village near the district town. A Rajput was killed, dozens of houses belonging to Dalits were torched and, scores of Dalits sustained injuries and have been hospitalised.

A recent video of houses of Dalits being torched, uploaded by a local news website, Janjwar:

The trouble began when the Rajputs objected last month to Dalits installing a statue of Dr BR Ambedkar in the campus of the local Ravidas temple in Shabbirpur. The Rajputs objected to the statue of Dr Ambedkar, depicted holding a copy of the Constitution in one hand and pointing his finger ahead. While there are thousands of such statues dotting Uttar Pradesh, the Rajputs, in Shabbirpur, argued that the finger was pointed towards the road which was used by Rajput women.

A video, showing the local Ravidas Temple:

They asked the Dalits to install the statue at the back of the temple, if necessary. The dispute prompted the district administration to deny permission to the Dalits to install the statue.

When the Rajputs, thereafter, took out a motorcycle procession on the same road to celebrate, ostensibly, the birthday of Maharana Pratap, the Dalits objected and blocked the road, demanding that the Rajputs first get permission from the administration. This led to violence and, soon, Rajputs called for reinforcement and violence escalated.

While police on Friday claimed that normalcy had returned, the Dalits told National Herald that policemen were targeting the Dalits. Chandrasekhar Azad, the chief of the Bhim Army, is on the run and there is a manhunt on for him.

A video showing members of the Dalit community fleeing their homes:

Some observers feel that violence is being instigated by the BJP, which has not taken kindly to the electoral reverses in Saharanpur where it lost both the seats, Saharanpur City and Saharanpur Rural, in the recently held Assembly election. Masood Akhtar of Congress won Saharanpur Rural seat, while Sanjay Garg of Samajwadi Party won the Saharanpur City seat.

“BJP has added fuel to the fire. Already tense, Saharanpur has become a battleground between the BJP and BSP. Traditionally, this region has been a BSP stronghold. After losing the electoral battle, both the BJP and BSP started realigning their caste base,” says Sudhir Panwar, a Samajwadi Party leader. While the BJP is believed to have instigated violence by openly supporting Rajput/Thakurs of the area, the BSP is accused of having funded the Bhim Army.

Talking to National Herald over phone, Pawar said, “Suresh Rana, who is a minister in the Yogi cabinet aspires to emerge as the biggest Thakur leader of the state. His growing influence has radicalised Thakurs/Rajput on caste lines.”

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Published: 12 May 2017, 8:28 PM