Fresh violence erupted around Saharanpur on Tuesday after a large crowd started converging on the city, allegedly to seek action against the violence on Dalits in Shabbirpur village last week. According to police, a crowd of around 1,000 people were mobilised under the banner of “Bheem Army”. The protest sparked violence, during which a private bus, 10 motorcycles and a car were torched in two villages in Saharanpur district, the police said. Three police personnel and a journalist were injured. There was also a failed attempt at setting ablaze a police picket, the police added.
Twenty-two people have been arrested. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath summoned Principal Secretary (Home) Debashish Panda, DGP Sulkhan Singh and ADG (Law and Order) Aditya Mishra. Sources said the officers had been told to deal with the troublemakers sternly. Cabinet minister Shrikant Sharma said things would get back to normal soon.
On May 5, violence erupted in Shabbirpur village of Saharanpur district after Dalits objected to loud music being played by Thakurs at a procession. A Thakur man died and 25 Dalit homes were charred. Over the last few days, the police said, messages were being exchanged on social media asking people from various districts to assemble in Saharanpur on May 9 in the name of “Bheem Army”. They called for a “maha panchayat” to “seek action” against the violence on Dalits in Shabbirpur.
“Caste-based polarised messages were intercepted Monday evening, after which two people were arrested. A police force was deployed at the proposed assembly area in the city. However, more than 1,000 people gathered around Saharanpur area,” said SSP Subhash Chand Dubey. N P Singh, the DM of Saharanpur, said, “The messages said they would burn Saharanpur if they did not get justice. The crowd was stopped from entering the city, but they formed different units and staged a protest in Dalit-majority villages like Malhipur, Halalpur and near Ramnagar. They burnt vehicles and threw bricks at the police on Malhipur road.”
Saharanpur DIG Jitendra Shahi said the police had contained the crowds till afternoon until a photojournalist started taking pictures and irked the protesters. “They beat him up and torched vehicles,” he said.
Shahi said the “Bheem Army” has been active since former Chief Minister Mayawati’s tenure. The man who mobilised the crowd is Rahul Bharti, who came from Haridwar after the Shabbirpur violence, he said.
The Indian Express met Bharti in Saharanpur District Hospital four days ago, when he was meeting the victims of the clash. He had said, “The atrocities against Dalits were perpetrated with full planning and we will fight against it.”
(With inputs from Lucknow)