A day after a Dalit youth was killed in a clash in Meerut’s Uldepur village, three people from the village’s Thakur community have been arrested, while six other accused are on the run. The accused have been charged under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and sections of the IPC relating to rioting, murder and criminal intimidation.
An uneasy silence hangs over the village where members of the Dalit Jatav community have gathered outside the residence of the deceased Rohit. Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) and policemen have been deployed in the village.
According to members of Jatav community, 17-year-old youths Rohit, Vinod and Anuj, had gone to the nearby town Modipuram on Wednesday night to watch the last leg of the Kanwar Yatra. Rohit’s father Devendra Kumar said a fight broke out between the youths and some men from the Thakur community at Modipuram. “The boys didn’t return to the village that night. My son called up around 1 am and said they didn’t want to travel back because they had been threatened and they feared for their safety,” he said.
According to him, when the boys tried to return to the village the next morning, they were beaten up by some people from the Thakur community on the way. “They came and told us what happened. So, I and a couple of other people decided to go to their homes and reason with them. But before we could get there, a group of around 12 Thakurs stopped us and started beating us. After a few minutes, Rohit and his friends came to see if we are all right, and the attacks turned towards them. He was injured on the chest,” he said.
Devendra, who suffered injuries in the head and shoulder, alleged that the Thakur men were armed with lathis and kattas (countrymade pistols) which they fired in the air. Rohit’s elder brother Gaurav rushed him to a hospital in Modipuram on a bike where he was declared dead. His friend, Vinod, is currently in hospital.
At the abandoned home of Krishan Chauhan — one of those arrested — lies an overturned charpoy, pieces of brick and some scattered vessels. His neighbour Ombati Chauhan alleged that the Jatavs had arrived at the house, vandalised it and attacked people.
According to CO, Sadar Dehat, Jitendra Sangram, the death was the fallout of an argument. “There were no weapons involved, but stones and bricks were hurled. It occurred after the members of Jatav community approached Krishan Chauhan to reprimand him for the previous night’s fight,” he said. Members of Jatav community, however, alleged police bias and claimed that the vandalism in Chauhan’s house was done by police to make it seem like a fight rather than an assault.
Local residents said that Uldepur has about 1,400 families, of which 800-900 families are Jatavs and 300-350 families Thakurs. According to them, this is the first time such a violent incident has taken place there.