Saharanpur Dalit-Thakur violence: 5 things about UP’s caste-communal cauldron
Saharanpur in western UP has a history of caste and communal violence, fuelled by religious diversity and political attempts at polarisationUpdated: Jul 21, 2017, 13:18 IST
A wave of caste clashes at the westernmost tip of Uttar Pradesh spanning the past two weeks has killed two Dalits and injured scores. But this is only the latest of many such caste and communal conflagrations in Saharanpur. Here are five things to know about UP’s cauldron of sectarian violence:
1. The current flare-up began on May 5 when Dalits objected to a procession carried out by Thakurs and Rajputs to commemorate 16th century king Maharana Pratap. The ensuing clashes killed one Thakur youth. Hours later, around 50 Dalit houses were torched.
2. Earlier this month, A BJP rally held to mark Dalit icon BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary in Sadak Dudhali village near Saharanpur sparked angry protests from locals. The dispute turned violent and injured 15 people, before the police stepped in and stopped the procession for being organised without permission. Hours later, members of the BJP — including MP Raghav Lakhanpal, his MLA brother Rahul Lakhanpal — barged into the house of the senior superintendent of police and their supporters allegedly vandalised the premises.
3. In July 2014, Saharanpur was rocked by pitched battles between the Sikh and Muslim communities over a property dispute. Three were killed, more than 50 injured and police had to issue shoot-at-sight orders to control mobs.
4. The district’s has 40% Muslim population, and 22% Dalits. Experts say this makes it more susceptible to both caste and communal violence. The current spell of violence is seen by many as an effort to gain traction ahead of local polls in two months. The BJP swept UP in the assembly polls but lost both urban seats in the region.
5. Saharanpur saw 544 communal flare-ups between 2010 and 2016, among the highest in the state. The count mounted every year, and just 2015 saw 169 incidents. This was seen as an effort to polarize the electorate ahead of assembly polls.