A day after a Dalit youth was killed in attacks on men returning from a rally of BSP chief Mayawati, a Thakur youth was shot at in Saharanpur Wednesday and was taken to a Meerut hospital with gunshot injuries.
Moving to contain caste violence in the district, the UP government suspended the District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police for alleged dereliction of duty and sent senior officials from Lucknow to camp in Saharanpur to control the situation.
Additional Director General (Law and Order) Aditya Mishra, who is in Saharanpur, said Internet services in the district have been suspended in view of the clashes. The step, police said, was taken to restrict flow of hate messages through social media.
On Wednesday afternoon, 25-year-old Pradeep Chauhan, a resident of Ahsanwali, was shot by unidentified men in the Chak Hareti area and was taken to the Saharanpur district hospital which referred him to a hospital in Meerut. Hospital sources said he had been shot from point-blank range.
SP (City) Prabal Pratap Singh said, “A Thakur youth was shot and is currently undergoing surgery at a hospital in Meerut. We are yet to ascertain if this incident is a result of the ongoing violence between Dalits and Thakurs in the district.”
Meanwhile, police arrested 24 men, all Thakurs, in connection with attacks Tuesday on men returning from the BSP rally. They were brought to the district hospital for medical examination under heavy police escort. The attacks left a Dalit youth, Ashish Meghraj, dead and another 13 injured. Rs 15 lakh in compensation was announced Wednesday by the government for the Meghraj family. Each injured will receive Rs 50,000.
The state government suspended District Magistrate N P Singh and SSP Subhash Chandra Dubey. The government also removed Divisional Commissioner M P Agrawal and DIG (Range) J K Shahi — Shahi was to retire next week.
Principal Secretary (Information) Awanish Kumar Awasthi confirmed the steps taken to contain the situation. Pramod Kumar will be the new DM and Bablu Kumar the SSP. Dubey was posted as SSP in Saharanpur only last month.
A four-member team led by Secretary (Home) Mani Prasad Mishra has also reached Saharanpur. Others in the team are ADG (Law and Order) Aditya Mishra, IG (STF) Amitabh Yash and DG (Security) Vijay Bhushan.
Police sources said one of the reasons for the suspension of the DM and SSP was the permission granted for the BSP rally in Shabbirpur at a time when the situation in the district was already tense and the state intelligence had warned against holding of political rallies.
“Once the permission was given, the local police completely failed to anticipate the response to the rally. The result was that the bandobast, in terms of police presence that should have been provided, was not there. It resulted in the tragic death of a Dalit man and further escalation of tension,” a senior UP police officer said.
The officer said the situation was such that no action was likely at this stage against Chandrashekhar, leader of the Bhim Army spearheading the Dalit agitation in these parts. The police have filed an FIR against him, but have not arrested him.
The fresh violence in Saharanpur sparked a political slugfest with BSP chief Mayawati putting the blame on the BJP government and senior state minister Siddharth Nath Singh accusing her party of “shedding tears”.
Mayawati also asked senior leaders of her party to meet Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath Wednesday evening and said they would demand strict action against those behind the violence against Dalits.
The delegation comprising BSP general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra, party state president Ram Achal Rajbhar, legislature party leader Lalji Verma and former minister Indrajeet Saroj handed a memorandum to the Chief Minister.
At a press conference on an immunisation campaign, Siddharth Nath Singh, who is the state Health Minister, hit back at the BSP. He said it would have been better if those shedding tears over the Saharanpur caste clashes had got themselves associated with the immunisation campaign — though he did not name her, it was a reference to Mayawati.
Singh said the state government had taken the Saharanpur incident very seriously and sent four senior officials with instructions to return only after normalcy had been restored. He said the Chief Minister had appealed to people to maintain peace and had also sought cooperation from Opposition parties.
Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary criticised the state government for failing to control the situation in Saharanpur, and called it a “blot”.