At least five policemen, an additional district magistrate and a number of rioters were injured in clashes in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur on Tuesday, after violence erupted in the region for the third time in a month. Six people have been taken into custody, according to Hindustan Times.
There were mixed reports about what triggered the clashes. According to NDTV, violent confrontations began after members of the Dalit community refused to allow a procession to mark Maharana Pratap Jayanti. Their refusal was allegedly in response to upper caste Thakurs having stopped Dalits from holding a similar rally on Ambedkar Jayanti.
Other reports claimed that the clashes broke out after the police cut short a mahapanchayat called by the Dalit community. The mahapanchyat was organised to protest against the police inaction against members of the Thakur community, who were involved in communal clashes last week. The clashes had left one dead and several injured.
While members of the Dalit community torched vehicles and vandalised the Ramnagar Police Post, the police baton-charged and fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. Dalits at the site claimed that more than 100 people were injured in the baton-charge, according to the Hindustan Times report.
Saharanpur Senior Superintendent of Police Subhash Chand Dubey said the rioters pelted stones and opened fire on officers using country-made pistols. Chief Minister Adityanath, who was in Meerut, has asked Inspector General (Meerut Zone) Ajay Anand to bring the situation under control.
On May 5, violence broke out in Saharanpur’s Shabbirpur village when upper caste members had organised a procession to commemorate the birth anniversary of Rajput king Maharana Pratap. The Dalit community had reportedly objected to the loud music played during the event. Some reports claimed that a statue of BR Ambedkar was vandalised, while others said the villagers were upset with the Thakurs for allegedly preventing an Ambedkar statue from being installed.
A group of Dalits held a rally on May 6 in Saharanpur city to demand action against the Thakurs. Later, 10 people from the Thakur community and seven from the Dalit community were arrested.
In April, the police had registered two FIRs against BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal Sharma and 300 other unidentified protestors, after clashes broke out during a rally organised by BJP members to mark Ambedkar Jayanti. The march was organised 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.