Amid simmering tension between Dalits and Thakurs in Saharanpur over Maharana Pratap Jayanti celebrations, the 24-year-old brother of Bheem Army district president Kamal Walia was shot dead on Wednesday afternoon in Ramnagar area. Following the incident, internet services in the area have been suspended.
The incident comes exactly a year after the district witnessed violent clashes between the two groups, which resulted in a death, and left at least a dozen injured. Several houses belonging to Dalits had also been set ablaze.
The incident took place at around 12.15 pm, when Sachin (24), who was also a Bheem Army activist like his brother, was near his house in Ramnagar locality of Saharanpur, police and the victim’s family said.
“Sachin was in a street on the other side of the locality when he was shot dead. He was rushed to the government hospital, which declared him dead on arrival. Our family and Bheem Army members are in the hospital,” Abhishek, the victim’s cousin, told The Indian Express.
According to the police, an FIR was filed late Wednesday evening against five individuals belonging to the Thakur community following complaints from the family. However, an autopsy is yet to be conducted.
“The police was informed when the victim was being taken to the hospital… Our teams are trying to ascertain the sequence of events. Till now, no eyewitnesses have been found, and no signs of clashes between the groups have been reported. No weapon has been recovered. There was a heavy police presence in the area in the light of what had happened on Maharana Pratap Jayanti last year,” said Sharad Sachan, DIG, Saharanpur Range.
A section of the Thakur community had sought permission to organise an event on the occasion of Maharana Pratap Jayanti, but the same had been initially turned down by the administration. While Bheem Army maintained that such an event should not be allowed, permission was granted to the Thakurs at the last minute, police said. “Later, permission was granted, and Thakurs of the area organised the event inside a building. More than adequate police force had been deployed,” Sachan added.
Shortly after news of Sachin’s death spread, several members of Bheem Army and local residents gathered at the hospital, demanding action against members of the upper caste Thakurs.
Meanwhile, police sources maintained that Sachin was hit by a bullet near his chin. “There seems to be… blackening in the area where the bullet injury was sustained. While things will be clear after the post-mortem, it looks like he was shot at from a close range,” a police source said.
Another police source added that when the team reached the spot, some local residents were already at the crime scene, cleaning the blood stains on the street. “The crime scene was being cleaned before the police forensic team reached. A video has been recorded, and it will be investigated,” the source said.
Hundreds of people – mostly members of Bheem Army and locals residents — along with Kamal Walia remained stationed at the Saharanpur district hospital. “We are not going to let the post-mortem take place unless a fair probe is conducted and our demands are met,” said a member of the group present at the hospital premises.
Around four kilometres from Ramnagar, police put up barricades at every 500 metres, limiting entry to the locality where the incident took place. A company of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) has also been deployed. At the main crossing in Ramnagar, many residents set up a bamboo barricade and sat in protest.