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Saharanpur violence: Dalits attacked for not voting BJP in 2017

Saharanpur violence: Dalits attacked for not voting BJP in 2017

LUCKNOW: “The houses of those Dalits who did not vote for the BJP in the Assembly electons in Uttar Pradesh were selectively targeted, their properties burnt, their women terrorised,” is the one singular fact that former IPS officer and IG, Police S.R.Darapuri has returned with after a fact finding mission to Saharanpur along with several others representing different states of India.

Darapuri told The Citizen that in the assault on the Dalits the houses of one sect were torched, while of another that had voted for the BJP spared. This noticeable fact, he said, made the team come to the conclusion that the Saharanpur clash between Thakurs and Dalits was not spontaneous, but planned.

“And as is being done to the Muslims, the effort now is to terrorise the Dalits, particularly the sections that are Ambedkarites, are holding jobs and have a sense of their dignity and rights,” he said.

Saharanpur is still extremely tense with all residents in the town and adjoing villages impacted in the clashes between Thakurs and Dalits. As Darapuri said it all started on April 20 when the Member of Parliament from Saharanpur Raghav Lakhanpal took out an Ambedkar procession in Sadak Dhuli village that has a mixed population of Dalits and Muslims. Without taking permission, Lakhapal and others decided to take out the procession despite warnings from the administration of it being a communally sensitive area. Muslims reportedly retaliated when the procession was to enter their area. The Dalits, particularly, the Jatavs were also resistant to the yatra more so as it was shouting “Jai Shri Ram slogans” as it wound its way through the village.

The procession could not continue as a result. But dispersed to come back again, and attacked the residence of the Senior Superintendent of Police who was seen by them to have come in the way. Darapuri said that while the SP was not present at his residence, his wife took their two children and hid in the cow shed, terrified for their lives while the mob went on a rampage, breaking all it could get its hands on, including the CCTV cameras. He said this in itself was indicative of the impunity the mob enjoyed, with subsequent action being taken against the SP who was transferred by the UP government to Noida.The MP reportedly said that he would “not allow Saharanpur to become Kashmir”, a statement that drew condemnation from the Samajwadi party as well as local Dalit leaders.

Darapuri said that the effort at creating a Dalit versus Muslim clash in the village was effectively foiled. However, given the manner in which the mob attacked the SPs office a signal was deliberately sent out “that even a senior officer of the police cannot take action for communal harmony, and has to follow the BJP.”

Subsequently, the tensions were directed against the Dalits, and particularly those who did not vote for the BJP, Darapuri found during the fact finding mission. On May 5 a mob on motorcycles, carrying rods and swords according to eyewitnesses, decided to take a ‘Maharana Pratap’ procession through Shabirpur village that basicaly has a 1000 Dalits, and 2000 Thakurs. The Dalits told the team that when this procession reached their part of the village, as always on the outskirts, the procession shouted ‘murdabad’ slogans against Dr BR Ambedkar. The Dalits retaliated with stones.

Later it was learnt that a youth in the procession had died. Darapuri said that the circumstances of his death were not known, and the police too had not been able to fully ascertain the facts. However, a rumour that two Thakur boys had been killed spread like wildfire, and a mob returned to the village and set the Dalit homes on fire. Balmiki and other houses were spared while the Jatavs were singled out. The men fled, the women were attacked but as Darapuri said, “fortunately no rapes were reported,” and the hutments were torched, looted and destroyed. The mob also attacked the Ravidas temple in the village.

The police force available in Saharanpur was too small to be effective, according to Darapuri. Equal number of Dalits and Thakurs have been arrested but the area is far from calm.

The Dalits being attacked, the former IG said, were more assertive, more educated, and more aware of their rights than others from the community. “They are basically Ambedkarites, and take pride in that,” he pointed out. He said that after the violence there is deep terror and fear in the area, as the women and the children have also faced the brunt of the upper caste wrath.

He said he could see a conspiracy to terrorise those who had not voted for the BJP in these elections, with the Muslims and the Dalits forming a large chunk of these voters. However, despite the violence BSP leader Mayawati has remained indifferent, and not visited Saharanpur or the villages even once. She has not even given a statement except for a few remarks at the very beginning.

The Bhim Sena, an organisation of young Dalits, is currently being targeted by the police and the state authorities being described as “Maoists”, Darapuri said. “We are all against violence but we also oppose these attempts to suppress and oppress people on false charges,” he added.

Courtesy: The Citizen