Divided by caste, two deaths amplify the rift in Saharanpur
Sumit Rana was a Thakur, Ashish Kumar a Dalit. Sumit, 26, lived in Rasoolpur Tang village and Ashish, 20, was a resident of Sui Kheda, roughly 50 km away. Unknown to each other, the two youths became victims of the deadly caste violence that hit Shabbirpur village twice in a span of 18 days.
The two deaths were the latest casualty in a series of clashes that has rocked Saharanpur district in western Uttar Pradesh. The violence has also left scores wounded. The police have arrested 74 people so far.
Sumit, who worked at an under-construction bridge, was killed on May 5 in clashes over a procession to commemorate Maharana Pratap Jayanti in Shabbirpur.
His father Bhram Singh, 75, said Sumit had gone to see his aunt in the village and got caught in the clashes.
“We didn’t know he would never return,” said Singh, sitting on a cot in his house in Rasoolpur Tang, the Rajput-dominated village near Deoband.
Sumit is survived by his wife, a three-year-old son, and a two-year-old daughter.
Locals say the village, 25 km from Shabbirpur, has no history of Dalit-Thakur clashes.
“The Shabbirpur incident destroyed our lives. We have always lived peacefully. Many Dalits attended the last rites of my brother,” said Bipin Rana, Sumit’s younger brother.
The family blames Chandrashekhar and his Bhim Army, a Dalit youth group, for inciting the violence.
“Yeh sab Bhim Army ka kia hai. Chandrashekhar ne Daliton ko Rajputon ke khilaf bhadkaya (Bhim Army is responsible for the violence. Chandrashekhar incited them against us,” said Rajpal Rana, Sumit’s uncle.
The family alleges that even 25 days after his death, none of those booked in the case has been arrested so far.
“Our son’s killers are at large. Instead, they (police) booked five of our family members for the second round of violence at Shabbirpur on May 23,” said Suresh Singh, Sumit’s cousin, terming the violence a conspiracy to malign Yogi Adityanath’s government in the state.
On May 23, Ashish Kumar, a class 10 dropout, was killed when he was returning with a group of Dalits after attending BSP chief Mayawati’s public meeting in Shabbirpur.
“He got a call that there was a rally. He wanted to see Behenji (Mayawati),” said Ashish’s father Meghraj, in his two-room home at the Dalit-dominated Sui Kheda village, 25 km from Shabbirpur. Ashish, a labourer, was the second of Meghraj’s three sons and a daughter.
The family that converted to Christianity about 15 years ago, said they have accepted their fate and have nothing to say or demand from the government as they mourn their son’s loss.
“Will filing a case against any one bring back our son?” asked 70-year-old Phulu, Ashish’s grandmother.
Indeed, as the dust settles over Saharanpur’s latest round of mindless violence, the Rs 15 lakh compensation to each of the families is no measure of their loss.