Four of the 25 Dalit youths arrested for alleged involvement in the May 9 Saharanpur clash were not part of any mob and a fifth accused had no direct role in the violence, but all were arrested just “because of their caste”, sources close to the accused claimed on Friday. One of the accused, 24-year-old Upkar, works as a lab assistant at an engineering college, and was allegedly arrested while he, along with others, was going to Ramnagar, where violence had spread on May 9.
A source, who visited the accused in Saharanpur district jail on the afternoon of May 26, said Upkar and his friends had boarded a train from Muzaffarnagar on May 9, which arrived late in Saharanpur. The violence, with roots in an earlier Thakur-Dalit clash, had started in Saharanpur town on May 9 and spread to Ramnagar, about 45 minutes away.
“They (Upkar and his friends) hired an auto and in between they were getting messages from acquaintances that the police had lathicharged protesters and they had decided to gather near Ramnagar. The auto driver, however, dropped Upkar and his friend Vinay midway en route to Ramnagar, after which the police stopped them. The police asked Upkar and Vinay their caste when they were taken to a police station in a van and later arrested them. Upkar and Vinay were booked for rioting, arson, attempt to murder and for destroying public property,” the source said. Two others among the five were also booked under the same charges.
Upkar’s father has retired from the BSF. Vinay is currently preparing for his SSC examinations and is from Muzaffarnagar.
Another accused in the case, Sachin Ambedkar who is from Ghaziabad, was arrested on May 8, a day before the violence broke out. The source said Sachin worked as a contractual teacher in a government school in Ghaziabad.
The police had earlier said they had booked him for posting “objectionable” messages on a social media site under Section 66 of the IT Act. One of his Facebook posts, put up hours after violence in Saharanpur on May 5, read: “10 hazaar ke phone rakhne walon. 5-7 hazaar ke hathiyaar bhi kharid lo. Suraksha rahegi.”
A source who visited Sachin in jail said: “Sachin had no role in the violence. He was tricked and arrested. The police had brought a person from Saharanpur who was asked to call Sachin and call him outside his home after which he was arrested. His parents came to know a day later,” the source said.
The fourth accused is Sonu, a BA first-year student in his twenties. A source said one of Sonu’s relatives was arrested in the May 9 case and the youth had gone to meet him in the police station when he too was arrested. “Now he is in jail and he has missed his first-year examinations in three subjects,” the source said.
Thirty-two-year-old Amarnath is the fifth accused. He had gone to distribute wedding cards and was returning from Telipur village when the police arrested him, said a source.
Police also arrested 25 men from the Thakur community after a mob of Thakur men had killed one Dalit and injured 15 after Mayawati’s rally on May 23.