Dalits torched vehicles, vandalised a police outpost and clashed with security personnel on Tuesday as fresh violence erupted in Saharanpur, barely a few days after caste clashes left one dead in the Uttar Pradesh city.
At least half-a-dozen policemen and an additional district magistrate were injured when they were allegedly attacked by Dalits after security forces scuttled a mahapanchyat called to protest the lack of action against Thakurs involved in last week’s clashes.
Officials said police caned protesters and fired rubber bullets to control the irate crowd in which many rioters were also injuries. At least six rioters were taken into custody and additional forces were deployed in the city and neighbouring villages to control the situation.
Caste and communal lines run deep across the sensitive region in western UP where a similar mahapanchayat in 2013 led to Hindu-Muslim clashes in Muzaffarnagar, leaving more than 60 people dead and thousands displaced.
The fresh clashes have come as a challenge for chief minister Yogi Adityanath, especially in view of the BJP’s pre-poll promise to improve law and order in the state. Adityanath was in Meerut on an official visit the the clashes took place.
The CM directed the Meerut zone inspector general of police Ajay Anand to take firm action against rioters and bring normalcy in the city as soon as possible, officials said.
Dalits claimed that over 100 people were injured in the lathi-charge. Mainpal, a Dalit leader of Saharanpur, said the district has over 18 lakh Dalit population and they would not stay silent over police the “excesses”.
Dalits in Shahranpur have been restive since May 5 when a Thakur youth was killed in Shabbirpur village and many injured in clashes between the two communities after a dispute over a procession to mark the birth anniversary of Rajput ruler Maharana Pratap.
Dalits accused the district administration and police of atrocities on them after the incident and alleged that no action was taken against Thakurs.
In protest, the Bheem Army – an organisation of young Dalits – called for a mahapanchayat at Ambedkar Chhatravas in Saharanpur on Tuesday. Thousands of Dalits from the city and different villages began arriving at the venue.
However, police banned the event as no permission was sought from the district administration. Soon Dalit protesters went on the rampage and set vehicles of media persons and police on fire in Ramnagar village.
They also vandalised the Ramnagar police post and torched a bus near Nazirpura village on Meerut road. A group of Dalit youths also thrashed passersby, eyewitnesses said.
Saharanpur SSP Subhash Chand Dubey said the rioters resorted to stone pelting, set vehicles on fire and opened fire from country-made pistols.