For the first time in recent memory, Dalits in Kanpur city and dehat voted without fear, courtesy heavy deployment of central paramilitary forces in the area by the Election Commission.
However, after peaceful voting on Saturday, Dalits are now fearing a backlash from the upper caste in the villages. They termed the peaceful elections as the silence before the storm. With the withdrawal of troops, the Dalits are feeling insecure and want forces to stay. Ruling out any fear factor, I G Kanpur zone Javeed Ahmed said, “No one should worry about any backlash, as we are keeping a strict watch in areas where backlash is expected. Our intelligence is upgraded and anyone who tries to disturb peace and harmony in the area would be dealt with iron hands.” According to SSP Alok Singh, so far there have been no reports of clashes amongst the communities but police is keeping a strict watch on disturbing elements in sensitive areas. In the constituencies of Chaubeypur, Derapur, Billhaur, Ghatampur and Sarsaul Dalits came out in large numbers to vote.
“I have voted for the first time in my life with my wife and son,” said Dwarika Lal of Shishupur in Sarsaul. “Previously we were not allowed to move out of our house and the upper cast people used to cast out votes. This time too our voter identity cards and ration cards were submitted by the pradhan and his brother but due to the intervention of Election Commission officials, we got them back and exercised our right to vote,” said Dwarika.
It may be recalled that action against the gram pradhan of Shishupur and his brother was taken when they confiscated the ration cards of villagers in order to deprive them of voting in the polls. In a raid by zonal magistrate at the house of gram pradhan 200 ration cards were recovered which were returned to the owners and the administration provided them security to cast their vote.
A gram pradhan in Ghatampur area said on condition of anonymity, “Dalits would have to pay for voting against our wish.” He added, “If our candidates lose then it could be the start of a caste war in the villages.”
Arjun, a Dalit BA student in Chaubeypur, said, “There is lot of political awareness amongst the Dalits, They are no more afraid of taking on the upper caste when it comes to power sharing. Especially in villages, Dalits have started demanding their share of respect from the upper caste.”
However, he too suspected upper caste backlash after the elections are over. “Due to the presence of central para military forces, the village musclemen are silent but once they go back to the barracks, we suspect some repercussions as we voted in huge numbers.”