UTTAR PRADESH: Caste Conflict in Saharanpur

Than Singh

WITH the aim of reaching Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur district of UP, a delegation led by Than Singh, convenor of Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch and comprising of Rao Daud Khan, district secretary of the CPI(M), Advocate Vikram Singh and Vikas Negi from Moradabad and Advocate Rajneesh Kumar, Ajay Kumar, Navneet Singh and Surendra Kumar from Deoband, visited Saharanpur on May 9.

The police administration of Saharanpur has so far not allowed any delegation from outside to visit Shabbirpur. The delegation therefore could not visit the site of the incidents. However, the delegation visited the Saharanpur district hospital to meet the victims and gather information regarding the incident. In a single ward in the hospital, 13 victims, both men and women, are admitted related to the Shabbirpur incident. These include Dal Singh, Anil, Pradeep, Sandeep, Raju, Agni Bhaskar, Shyam Singh, former pradhan Naresh Kumar, Kamla, Reena, Roshan, Shimla and Pradeep Kaur. One person seriously injured in the incident, Shiv Kumar has been admitted to Jolly Grant in Dehradun. The treatment of the victims at the hospital is far from satisfactory.

After talking to Dal Singh, Shyam Singh and former pradhan Naresh Kumar, the delegation was able to piece together the happenings at the Shabbirpur.

On May 5, the day of Maharana Pratap Jayanti, a programme under the leadership of Sher Singh Rana, who is  accused in the murder case of Phoolan Devi, to install a bust of Maharana Pratap in village Shimlana was organised. 20-30 villages around Shimlana are Thakur dominated. Villagers from there were gathering in jathas to move to Shimlana. One such jatha starting from village Maheshpur was crossing the dalit village, Shabbirpur. The militant section of the jatha had swords and rifles etc in their hands and were playing loud music on DJ. On the complaint of village pradhan, Shiv Kumar, the police stopped the unauthorised DJ. This provoked the assembled people and they called those gathered in Shimlana. Thousand of people descended on Shabbirpur and mounted an attack on the dalit basti. They set houses on fire which destroyed 65 of them. The fodder for animals, domestic firewood, motorcycles etc – all were put into the fire. They attacked the elders, women and children mercilessly. 14-15 persons suffered grievous injuries. This entire incident happened in the presence of police and administration which remained a mute spectator.

In this melee, one of the attackers died. On this basis, five false cases have been registered against the villagers. Eight persons have been arrested. Later the postmortem report revealed that the deceased did not die in the scuffle but was asphyxiated. The entire village has been converted into a police camp and all male adults have run away for fear of being implicated by the police.

MAY 9 INCIDENT

The police administration was fully aware that Bhim Army and other dalit organisations were planning to hold a meeting at Ravidas hostel on Dehradun Road in Saharanpur. They wanted to hand over a memorandum to the police demanding compensation for the victims of Shabbirpur and facilities for their proper treatment. The police administration maintained that the hostel was not a place to hold a public meeting and therefore the programme should be shifted to Gandhi Park. People, thus started gathering at the Gandhi Park since morning. The police unleashed a reign of terror on the assembly and mercilessly beat up even those who were trying to get away. Once the news of the lathicharge reached all those who were coming for the assembly, people under the leadership of Bhim Army blocked the roads. It is also learnt that several vehicles were also torched and stone pelting on police was also reported.  

The delegation is of the opinion that if the meeting at the Ravidas hostel was allowed, the memorandum could have been handed over peacefully. But by misleading the people to go to the Gandhi Park and then attacking them mercilessly clearly demonstrates that the administration did not want a united voice of protest on the incidents of Shabbirpur.

Similarly, on May 5, if the police had been vigilant it could have stopped the attack by the crowd from Shimlana on the people of Shabbirpur.

The delegation feels that the three reasons for this caste conflict are:

1. The bust of Dr B R Ambedkar was not allowed to be placed in Shabbirpur on April 14 under pressure from the Thakur community.

2. The indifferent attitude of the police administration 

3. After assumption of office by the Yogi government in UP, the saffron brigade has been emboldened to impose its agenda with brute force.

The comrades of DSMM, Deoband (Saharanpur) have provided help to the victims of Shabbirpur. The contribution of Rajneesh Kumar Gautam, Suresh Kumar and Ajay Kumar needs mention. The administration allowed only one person to go the village. Ajay Kumar visited the village Shabbirpur and provided relief material to the affected families which included 40 quintals of food items, vegetables, clothes and Rs 15 thousand in cash.

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