Hundreds of Dalits, led by the Saharanpur-based organised Bhim Army, gathered at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Sunday, protest against caste-based discrimination in the Uttar Pradesh district. The Delhi Police had denied a number of Dalit groups permission to hold their demonstration there, but the protestors gathered anyway, The Indian Express reported. The founder of the Bhim Army, Chandrashekhar, was also present.
The protestors have alleged that the Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government was doing little to improve living conditions for Dalits in the state, and in fact mistreating them. The police had refused to give the protestors permission to gather there after being told that at least 50,000 community members were expected to attend, The Times of India reported.
Earlier in the day, the police said they had arrested four people for allegedly damaging a statue of BR Ambedkar in Saharanpur’s Mirzapur village, Hindustan Times reported.
The Saharanpur area has been rife was caste tension in the past month. On Wednesday, 10 people were injured in clashes between Dalits and Thakurs over the building of a drain in Uttar Pradesh’s Keshopur Jaufari village. The incident took place after Suresh Singh, a member of the upper caste Thakur community, laid a pipeline near the house of Chandra Pal, a Dalit. Seven of the 10 injured were Dalits.
On May 5, violence erupted in Saharanpur’s Shabbirpur village 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. One person was killed in the violence.