Members of the Bawariya community have challenged the police claim that Saleem, the main accused in the Bulandshahr highway gang rape case, is a member of their tribe.
Sources said members of the community had started consulting lawyers to challenge the police’s claim in court and may soon send a delegation to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav to officially lodge a protest.
Rubishing the police theory, the Bawariya samiti’s president Dheer Dhwaj and general secretary Harjeet Singh said Saleem was a Muslim while Bawariyas were Hindus.
“Bawariyas are hardcore Hindus,” claimed octogenarian Puran Singh, who is a former Indian Army officer.
Police, however, said Saleem was a member of the Bawariya community and the prime accused in the case. The police said 11 teams were conducting raids across the country to try and nab Saleem, who hailed from Gangoh in Saharanpur district. Saleem has a reward of `15,000 on his head.
Sources said though Saleem had been operating in the area for sometime, this was the first time the Bawariya community had come out in protest against their name being dragged, probably owing to the massive public attention and outcry the case had garnered.
Estimated to be around 15,000 in number, members of the Bawariya tribe mostly live in 12 villages in Jhinjhana area of Shamli. Their ancestors had moved from Rajasthan around 300 years back to settle in Shamli.
General secretary of Bawaria Samaj Kalyan Samiti Harjeet Singh claimed that the condition of the community had improved in the past few decades after they were included in the Scheduled Castes in 1952.
Leaders of the community claimed that police were trying to conceal facts and were trying to mask their failures by claiming the involvement of the Bawariya in the crime.
SSP, Bulandshahr, Anees Ansari, however, rubbished the charges and said that in past the police had earlier also arrested several members of Bawariya gangs who had Muslim names.