Dalit protests: Simmering caste tension in MP erupted after shutdown
Madhya Pradesh saw the worst of clashes during a nationwide strike called against the alleged weakening of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act on Monday. Four people were killed in Bhind, three in Gwalior and a man died in Morena.
While peace prevailed in these districts on Tuesday, police and ground reports indicate caste tensions were simmering and the bandh acted as a trigger for the differences to erupt.
Rumours that reservation would end and wild allegations on social media about violence added fuel to an already volatile situation, Gwalior superintendent of police Ashish said.
In Gwalior, the Thatipur area was the epicentre of the violence. It has a big Dalit settlement with upper castes living across the road.
On March 31, the Swarn Samaj Ekta Manch, a group of upper castes, complained to the collector that the members of Dalit organisations had misbehaved with girls during a peace procession on March 30.
They had expressed fear that the Dalits would resort to violence during the shutdown and had pleaded they be not permitted to take out rally, Gopal Upadhyay, a member of the Manch, said. “But the administration did not listen, and when the Dalits resorted to violence and there was retaliation,” he said.
Collector Rahul Jain said the protesters had promised that they wouldn’t break peace.
“We would have been killed on the day as police were not there,” Ramautar Jatav, a scheduled caste leader, said, adding they didn’t resort to violence.
He blamed Bajrang Dal and the people of nearby locality of targeting their neighbourhood. “We weren’t involved in any agitation as we have been working for the BJP for years,” Jatav said.
Bajrang Dal leader Lokendra Malviya denied the charge, saying: “Just because someone is wearing a saffron scarf does not mean they are from Bajrang Dal.”
Inspector Ravindra Singh, who was on duty when clashes broke out, said police were outnumbered. Mobs shouting Jai Bheem and Jai Shri Ram slogans opened fire at each other, leaving two people dead, Singh said.
It was difficult to say whose bullets proved fatal, as chaos prevailed for nearly three hours before reinforcements arrived.
In Bhind, family members of Mahavir Prasad Rajawat blamed police for his death.
They alleged that Rajawat was beaten up by protesters in the market and when they went to lodge a complaint, a group of protesters also reached the Machand chowki police station where he was shot dead.
“A mob had surrounded the chowki and set things on fire, so police fired in self-defence,” inspector general Chambal Santosh Singh said.