Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Shabbirpur violence: Many Dalit families have left village, safer resettlement sought by those left behind

By Our Representative
A Fact Finding team by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), which visited Shabbirpur village of Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, has said that the recent violence against Dalits in the village should be seen against the backdrop of “a resurgent Dalit community", which was "moving ahead politically, socially and economically.”
Pointing towards how Shiv Kumar, a Dalit, won the elections to the post of village pradhan in 2015, even though it was not a reserved seat, suggesting political empowerment of the community, a report prepared by the team insists, the resentment of dominant castes of "this forward movement cannot be ignored” while analysing what happened in Shabbirpur.
The team –which consisted, among others, of Ajit Kumar Yadav of the Swaraj Abhiyan; Ashok Bharati, Chief Advisor, National Confederation of Dalit Organizations; Ashok Chaudhury or the All India Union of Forest Working People; Ram Kumar, President, Dynamic Action Group, Lucknow; Dr Ramesh Nathan, General Secretary, NCDHR, visited Shabbirpur on May 14, and 15, 2017 – believes the May 5 violence appears to have been “pre-planned by the Thakurs.”
The team’s report, a copy of which has been forwarded to Counterview, says, “The administration, in particular the police, failed on serious counts to prevent, contain and stop the violence”, adding, “Trouble had been brewing in these areas since April in relation to Ambedkar Jayanti, and yet, the police did not take adequate precautionary measures.”
Referring to the Ambedkar Shobha Yatra on April 20, taken out by Raghav Lakhanpal, BJP MP, through Sadak Dudhli village, an area mostly dominated by Muslims, the report says, UP Police registered an FIR against the BJP MP, yet neither he nor his supporters were arrested. “Instead, SSP Love Kumar, who registered the FIR against the MP, was transferred out immediately thereafter”, it regrets.
“UP Police also did not take any of the preventive measures allowed under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 and the accompanying Rules (1995), such as recommend removal of a person likely to create unrest from a particular area for a specified period of time”, the report says.
Post-April, says the report, in the event to commemorate Maharana Pratap Jayanti at the Maharana Pratap Memorial Inter College on May 5, BJP leaders – including minister Suresh Rana and BJP MLAs Kunwar Brijesh and Nakli Singh – were present, and an accused in the Phoolan Devi murder case, Sher Singh Rana, was facilitated.”
This was followed by a procession, in which the Rajputs played “loud DJ music and shouting slogans such as Jai Sri Ram and Ambedkar Murdabad”, the report says, adding, “When Dalits of the village asked for permission papers, Rajput community started attacking the Dalits, who retaliated by throwing stones.”
Noting that “false rumours” were spreading that one or two Thakur youth had been attacked, leading to Thakurs from the nearby villages converging into Shabbirpur in thousands, the report says, “The fact that such large numbers were able to assemble so quickly does suggest that this very rapid mobilization was perhaps prompted by advance planning.”
“What followed for the next few hours was selective and targeted burning of 55 houses of Dalits of Shabbirpur village. Before the Thakurs set the houses on fire, they looted—jewels, cash, clothes and whatever they could lay their hands on”, the report says, adding, “The Ravidas temple situated in the midst of the Dalit settlement was attacked” and “Dalit women complained that the assailants sexually harassed them.”
Referring to the Dalit meeting at Ravidas Hostel on May 9, 2017, the report says, “The meeting was stopped in the name of law and order. Later when Dalits gathered at Gandhi Park demanding justice and rehabilitation and compensation, the police lathi charged the peaceful gathering.”
The situation has reached such a point, says the report, that “the administration has started to come heavily on the activists and leaders of Bhim Army, an organization of Dalit youths. Several false charges have been filed against the founder member of Bhim Army, Chandrashekhar Azad.
Pointing to several Dalit youths having been “arrested and put behind bars in Saharanpur District Jail”, with the Dalit community being “considered under the National Security Act” for social media posts, the report says, “Many Dalit families have left the village and those left behind are demanding resettlement in a place where they will feel safe.”

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