Madhya Pradesh Police are searching for a man who was caught on camera leading a group of men and firing a gun in a Dalit-dominated locality in Gwalior during clashes between the community and groups of upper caste men on Monday. The police identified him as Raja Chauhan.
The clashes, which claimed three lives in Gwalior district and at least five others in other parts of the country, broke out after Dalit organisations called for a nationwide strike on Monday and organised marches in Gwalior and several other cities and villages in the country. The protests were against a Supreme Court order on the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The Centre had moved a review petition concerning the same in the apex court on Monday.
The top court’s judgement on March 20 protects a public servant from being arrested under the SC/ST Act without a preliminary inquiry. The court had said the move was aimed at curbing alleged misuse of the law.
“The police have registered 20 cases in connection with the violent clashes in Gwalior and Chauhan has been identified as a suspect in one of them,” said Gwalior Superintendent of Police Ashish. “He is currently absconding and police teams are looking out for him.”
Till Tuesday evening, the state police had arrested 65 people from both Dalit and upper-caste communities in connection with the clashes.
Deaths were also reported in parts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh during the violence.
Police said the neighbourhood featured in the video was Gallakothar, which is adjacent to the area where Chauhan resides. Several other residents of the locality are also under the police radar.
While residents of Gallakothar and several news reports claimed that Chauhan is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, it could not be independently verified. The police have not commented on Chauhan’s affiliation with any political party.
An activist associated with the Bahujan Samaj Party, Devashish Jarariya, publicly identified Chauhan in the video on social media on Monday. Jarariya said that Chauhan was his senior in school.
After the video went viral, screenshots of Chauhan’s Facebook profile started doing the rounds. In some photographs, Chauhan can be seen flaunting guns and swords.
Allegations of police inaction
Till Tuesday afternoon, the police were reluctant to disclose Chauhan as a suspect in the case.
Earlier on Tuesday, town inspector Ravindra Gurjar, who is investigating the incidents of violence, had played down the importance of the video and social media posts and said that Chauhan was not a suspect yet. “And in case he is identified, there is so far no evidence to prove that he had indeed shot someone,” Gurjar had said.
Gurjar declined to comment on queries that Chauhan could still be charged under sections of the Arms Act and Indian Penal Code even if his bullets had not hit anyone. “There is a possibility that he had fired in self defense,” Gurjar said.