Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi reached Saharanpur Saturday afternoon to meet Dalit families affected by caste-based violence even as the local administration and UP police had denied him permission to visit the violence-hit western UP district citing law and order issues.
UP Congress chief Raj Babbar and senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad are with him.
Congress’s Saharanpur district chief Sashi Wali, who had sought permission for Rahul’s visit, told The Indian Express on Friday: “The district administration denied permission, but Rahul Gandhi will come to Saharanpur tomorrow.
District Magistrate Pramod Kumar said “I have denied permission to all political leaders interested in visiting Saharanpur. I have asked the Congress district president to arrange for the visit after the situation becomes normal.”
Earlier in the day, Uttar Pradesh minister Siddharth Nath Singh said when BSP chief Mayawati went to Saharanpur, the situation worsened, so the administration has taken the preventive decision to not permit Rahul to visit.
Mayawati had visited Saharanpur and met those affected by the caste-based violence that took place earlier this month, however, shortly after she left fresh clashes took place leading to the death of a 24-year-old Dalit youth and injuring many others on Tuesday, May 23.
The BSP supremo attacked the Yogi Adityanath government alleging that “casteist forces” in the BJP and the RSS had been given a free hand to misuse official machinery and harm social brotherhood in the state. Mayawati said ever since the BJP came to power in UP, the law and order situation had deteriorated, as was the case in other BJP-ruled states. “The saffron brigade has got a free hand to carry out communal and casteist activities to harass people…everyone needs to remain vigilant,” she said.
Heavy force has been deployed in Saharanpur since violence broke out on May 5. On Friday, the Centre provided two more companies of RAF to the district administration in addition to the two companies of RAF that are already stationed there.
On Thursday, the Centre sought a report from the UP government on the continuing violence in Saharanpur. The Home Ministry asked the for details of the incidents which began last month, and steps that had been taken to restore and maintain peace in the west UP district.
On May 5, one person was killed and at least 15 others, including a police officer, injured when members of two caste groups, Thakurs and Dalits, clashed over loud music being played during a procession. Clashes again broke out on May 23, and one person was killed and four injured. On Wednesday, May 24, three more people were injured in a round of fresh violence in the district.
The state government on Wednesday suspended the District Magistrate and Senior Superintendent of Police, and the Divisional Commissioner and the Deputy Inspector General were transferred out. Internet and mobile SMS services were suspended in Saharanpur to prevent the spread of rumours, which could potentially spark more trouble.