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Arrest of Dalit leader puts Phagwara on the edge again

Police said he was arrested on charges of assaulting a local resident named Pawan Kumar, whose complaint said Suman and three others attacked him in his home on Sunday

punjab Updated: Apr 30, 2018 22:25 IST
Jatinder Mahal
Jatinder Mahal
Hindustan Times, Phagwara
Punjab,Dalits,Phagwara
Dalit leader Harbhajan Suman being taken by police to a local court in Phagwara on Monday.(HT Photo)

Phagwara was gripped by tension again on Monday after police arrested Ambedkar Sena (Mool Niwasi) president Harbhajan Suman, who is a prominent leader of the Dalit community here on Monday. This came a day after a Dalit teenager shot in the April 13 clash of Dalit groups with “upper caste” Hindu right wing groups succumbed to injuries.

Police said he was arrested on charges of assaulting a local resident named Pawan Kumar, whose complaint said Suman and three others attacked him in his home on Sunday. Suman, who was sent to 14 days of judicial custody, is also named as an accused in the FIR registered on April 14, a day after the clash, in which around 100 people, including 33 by name, were booked on charges of attempt to murder and hurting religious sentiments besides other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), Arms Act, and National Highways Act.

The April 13 clash had taken place after Dalit groups sought to name a chowk after the country’s Constitution in homage to its chief architect and Dalit icon BR Ambedkar; and some right wingers protested. The town has since seen sporadic peace. The General Samaj Manch, an outfit purportedly representing the “general category” people, was demanding the arrest of Suman and Lok Insaaf Party leader Jarnail Nangal “before Monday” over the clash; four men from the right wing outfits were already arrested in that case.

Monday started peacefully, but, after the news of Suman’s arrest in the evening, members of the Dalit community gathered at Plahi Road demanding their immediate release. Supported by Pendu Mazdoor (rural worker) Union members, the protesters laid siege to superintendent of police (SP) Parminder Singh’s office. “This is an attempt to curtail our campaign. Suman has been implicated in a fake case,” union leader Tarsem Peter said.

Heavy police and paramilitary force remained deployed in the town.

The SP told protesters that while Suman has been arrested, police are still only investigating the alleged involvement of his associate Yash Verma. He said Suman was arrested under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 452 (trespass after preparation for hurt) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC. He said police are investigating his role in the case registered on April 14.

Meanwhile, family members of Yashwant Bobby, 19, who died on Sunday after being under treatment at Ludhiana for 16 days, appealed to the Dalit community to maintain peace. “We lost our son in a clash. Please do not politicise the death of my son,” Bobby’s father Charanjit Laddi said, “I urge my Dalit brothers not to create any ruckus in the town under political influence.”

First Published: Apr 30, 2018 22:20 IST