CPI(M) Polit Bureau members Brinda Karat and Subhashini Ali along with the affected dalit families from the Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh met the president of India on May 17, 2017, and handed over a memorandum. The president gave the delegation a very sympathetic hearing and expressed his anguish. He said that he would do whatever was in his power to ensure justice to the dalits of Shabbirpur. The memorandum gives the details of the violence perpetrated on the dalits in the village.
On April 14, 2017, the dalits of this village had wished to install a statue of Dr Ambedkar in the Ravidas temple in the village. Some upper caste people objected to this and contacted a BJP MLA who complained to the police. The police came and stopped the work of installation. There was no opposition to this from the dalit side.
On May 5, the upper castes belonging to the Thakur community of the area were to celebrate Rana Pratap Jayanti with the installation of a statue in the neighbouring village of Simlana. They decided to take out a procession with loud music and DJ through the dalit area. They were armed with swords, country-made weapons and were shouting very objectionable slogans. This was obviously an attempt to re-assert their caste superiority. The pradhan complained to the police and requested them to intervene. Some policemen did come but they did not do anything when the Thakurs went on the rampage in the dalit area. They burnt 58 homes along with various agricultural implements, 25-26 motorcycles, small vans, groceries and various possessions including children’s books and ration cards. Four shops were also burnt. Two fire engines were prevented from entering the village as also a PAC truck. 14 people including five women and one boy of 14 have received injuries, some very grievous. They are all in the District Hospital.
Tragically a young man from the Thakur community, who lived twenty kilometres away from the site, died during this incident. His post-mortem report has stated that he died due to asphyxiation. His family has been given 15 lakhs as compensation.
Shockingly, the dalits have received no compensation or even an assurance of getting any from the district administration. The attack on them by the more powerful social group in the area has also not been addressed properly. Many false cases have been foisted on the dalits.
The delegation brought to the attention of the president certain facts that have led to this situation of tension and conflict in Saharanpur. The formation of the BJP government in UP has encouraged vigilante groups of its supporters, including the rapidly expanding Hindu Yuva Vahini which is Yogi Adityanath’s own organisation, to attack different sections of people in the state with impunity. BJP leaders, including elected representatives, have also participated in these attacks. One such attack was witnessed in Saharanpur on April 20 when a mob led by the BJP MP attacked the residence of the SSP himself and this officer was subsequently transferred.
If this situation of aggression under the patronage of the ruling party with complete impunity continues, many parts of UP are in danger of descending into spirals of caste and communal violence.
The delegation requested the president to intervene in this matter. Since many members of the dalit community, for whose welfare and security the government bears a special responsibility, have been injured and have suffered tremendous economic losses apart from humiliation and insult, the president was urged upon to ensure that their grievances are redressed. The delegation also urged that the victims must receive compensation and justice and false cases against them should be withdrawn.