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Saharanpur violence: BJP MP was in crowd that vandalised my office, says SSP

Dalits in the village maintained that the shobha yatra was organised by “outsiders”.

Written by Aditi Vatsa | Saharanpur |
Updated: April 24, 2017 5:27:05 am
saharanpur violence, violence in saharanpur, saharanpur ravidas jayanti march, saharanpur march protest, saharanpur vandalism, Ravidas Jayanti saharanpur, Ravidas Jayanti protest, Raghav Lakhanpal, saharanpur, india news, indian express news Medical shops in Sadak Dudhli village that were vandalised. (Source: Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav)

In 2007, denial of permission for a Ravidas Jayanti procession led 32 Dalits from Saharanpur’s Sadak Dudhli village to convert to Sikhism. Ten years later, the village is tense over a procession in memory of Dr B R Ambedkar. With a population of 1,500 Dalit voters and 6,000 Muslim voters, the rural belt of Sadak Dudhli has a history of communal tension. This time the tension began after a request to take out a “shobha yatra” on April 14 — Ambedkar Jayanti — was turned down by the administration, citing law and order issues.

However, a procession was taken out in the village without the necessary permission. BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal was allegedly in the crowd along with BJP MLAs, leaders and workers. The event saw stone-throwing between Muslim residents and yatra participants, who were allegedly not from the village. Vehicles and shops were attacked, the SSP’s residence was vandalised.

“After police stopped the procession, a section reached my residence. There were around 400 people. CCTVs were broken, the name plate was vandalised. They ransacked my office. The BJP MP was part of that crowd,” said Saharanpur SSP Love Kumar.

Two FIRs were filed. Lakhanpal, along with BJP MLA from Deoband Brijesh and local BJP leaders, are among the 24 charged with rioting. “We have video and photographic records. Ten people have been arrested,” Kumar said. While four of the 10 are Muslim residents of the village, six are BJP workers, said former BJP MLA Rajeev Gumber. “Soon a shobha yatra will be taken out with permission. We will raise the issue in Lucknow tomorrow and complain against arbitrary arrest of our workers… Someone was provoked by political elements,” Gumber said.

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Police sources said that while permission for the April 14 event was sought by Dalit residents of the village, the event on April 20 was organised by one Ashok Bharti. Sources said that Bharti was earlier associated with the BSP and had recently moved to BJP. “Bharti is not a BJP member. In the invitation, he mentioned my name as an organiser but I was not consulted. I reached the village after I learnt that the procession was happening without permission. I felt our presence was needed to control the situation,” Gumber said.

Since Thursday, a thick security blanket has descended on Sadak Dudhli. Pointing to locked doors, Farhan, a resident, said, “Many people have gone to their relatives’ houses fearing violence. This mobile repair shop and two medical stores were ransacked. They threw stones at us, we had to retaliate.”

Dalits in the village maintained that the shobha yatra was organised by “outsiders”. Satpal, a resident, said, “We sought permission for a yatra on Ambedkar Jayanti. This was rejected, so we had an event at Ambedkar Centre here. The procession on April 20 was not ours. Permission has been denied to us since 2007 due to a similar incident. For any such event, the administration wants all residents to reach a consensus. In a village where the other community forms 80 per cent of the population, will we ever get permission?”

On Ravidas Jayanti in February 2007, police sources said, members of an outfit called Bahujan Samaj Swabhiman Sangharsh Samiti began an indefinite hunger strike after permission for a similar procession was denied. Thirty-two Dalit men had then gone to Paonta Sahib gurdwara in Himachal Pradesh and converted to Sikhism. Sadak Dudhli was recently brought under the Saharanpur municipal body, to which polls are due later this year.

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