Uttar Pradesh Police chief Sulkhan Singh will visit Saharanpur district on Sunday, two days after clashes between Dalits and upper-caste Thakurs left one person dead and scores injured. As many as 17 people were arrested on Saturday. “We have registered cases against those involved and strict action will be taken. No one will be spared,” Singh told NDTV.
Violence erupted in Saharanpur’s Shabbirpur village on Friday when upper caste members organised a procession to commemorate the birth anniversary of Rajput king Maharana Pratap. Some reports said the Dalit community had objected to the loud music played during the event. Other versions claimed that a statue of BR Ambedkar was vandalised, still others said that the villagers were upset with the Thakurs for allegedly preventing an Ambedkar statue from being installed.
Although it is not clear what triggered the clashes, members of the Thakur clan attacked the Dalits with iron rods while the two communities threw stones at each other. At least 15 Dalits were hospitalised and 22 Dalit homes were torched, according to The Indian Express.
On Saturday, a group of Dalits took out a rally on Saturday in Saharanpur city to demand action against the Thakurs. “[The] Situation is now under control. Ten people from the Thakur community and seven from the Dalit community have been arrested. Police have launched a manhunt to nab other culprits,” Saharanpur District Magistrate NP Singh told DNA.
Senior Congress leader from Saharanpur Imran Masood blamed the administration for the violence. “These processions are being taken out without required permission. This is politics of hate,” he told NDTV. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati also accused the government. “BJP leaders have been making tall claims of ensuring good governance. At the ground level, however, it has been otherwise. Anti-social elements are getting bolder,” she said, according to The Times of India.
The government, however, said it was doing its best to control the situation. Spokesperson Siddharth Nath Singh said, “The chief minister said there will be no differentiation between anyone in the enforcement of law and order…. The lower machinery in the police also needs to understand that we are a tough government,” he told NDTV.
This is the second caste clash in Saharanpur in a fortnight. In April, the police had registered two FIRs against BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal Sharma and 300 other unidentified protestors. Clashes broke out when BJP members took out a rally to mark Ambedkar Jayanti without the necessary permissions. Processions on Ambedkar Jayanti have been banned in Saharanpur for seven years. The locality where the rally was held has a population of Muslims and Dalits and is a communally sensitive area.