At a time when myriad questions are being raised regarding the deteriorating law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh, fresh clashes have resulted in the death of one person and injuring several after Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati’s public meeting in Saharanpur district’s Shabbirpur village.
A total of 24 people have been reportedly injured in what victims say has been caused largely by “Rajputs” or upper caste Hindus in the region.
While it is not clear if all of the 24 injured belong to the Dalit community, The Indian Express reports that 13 injured in the fresh clashes were from the minority community, with at least one from the Muslim community.
The spiralling caste-based violence in the region has increased due to high “political undercurrents” and inaction by police, despite repeated warnings by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Fresh reports of scattered attacks emerged after Mayawati blamed the UP government for the clashes during a public meet in Shabbirpur village, the core of the violence. It was reported that victims – in small groups spread across different areas – were attacked when they were returning after attending the BSP supremo’s address.
Victims claimed they were attacked by members of the Thakur community with several weapons ranging from rods, wooden sticks, and even knives. Despite continued atrocity, the police have failed to act quickly and arrest the perpetrators.
“One person was brought dead to Saharanpur district hospital while 13 were injured. Three of the 13 sustained grievous injuries and have been sent to Meerut,” said SP City (Saharanpur) Prabal Pratap Singh told The Indian Express.
However, when asked if the attacker was from the Thakur community, he declined to comment.
The person who was killed in the fresh attacks has been identified as 25-year-old Ashish Meghraj, a resident of Sarsawa village. Saharanpur District Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer, B S Sodhi, said Meghraj had stab wounds on the right side of his abdomen, apart from other injuries on his body.
“The cause of the death is yet to be ascertained,” Sodhi added.
That guns were used during the clashes has also been established. Dr Sodhi said one person who was brought to the hospital had bullet wounds, while two others had knife wounds. All of them – Phool Singh, Akbar and Mavasi – have been sent to Meerut for further treatment.
Others who got entangled in minor skirmishes have been admitted to the district hospital. 50-year-old Inderpal who suffered injuries while coming back from Mayawati’s address said he was attacked by 10 people just half-an-hour after the public meet.
In his testimony, Inderpal said that he was attacked by at least five “Rajputs” from his village. “They thrashed us with rods and lathis. Both my arms are fractured, and I suffered a head injury also,” he said.
The intensity of the clashes can be fathomed by the fact that a 16-year-old boy also became a victim of this fresh episode. Identified as Shekhar, 16, said he was riding back home on his bicycle from Mayawati’s event when he was attacked near Shimlana canal, about seven kilometres from Shabbirpur.
Like Inderpal, he too, alleged that the perpetrators were the upper caste Rajputs in the region. Shekhar suffered head injuries from the sudden attack on him.
The fact that most of the victims that suffered the attacks were returning from the event describe the “political undercurrents” that Dalits had referred to in after initial clashes.
Following the attacks, Dalits gathered outside the Saharanpur district hospital; not only to address their injured kin but to protest against the atrocities by upper case Thakurs. All they want now is justice, which they feel has eroded after Adityanath came to power.
Starting May 5, this is the third major incident of inter-caste violence that has rocked the district, especially Shabbirpur village.
It all started when Dalits were denied permission by the Thakur community to install a statue of BR Ambedkar on the premises of the Ravidas temple in the village, in his honour.
In retaliation, the Dalit community on May 5 opposed a procession of Thakurs to mark the birth anniversary of Rajput king Maharana Pratap, thus triggering a hostile environment which led to the death of one Thakur and injuring over 15.
The situation is alarming, not only because of the continued clashes, but also due to the failure of the police force in taking quick action. In such a scenario, the situation demands a stern plan by the Yogi Adityanath government, which promised “development for all” in India’s most populous state.