SANSAD News-release, May 15. 2017
SANSAD deplores on-going violence against Dalits
Brutal, systemic violence against Dalits is woven into the fabric of Hindu society in India and persists despite constitutional guarantees of the rights of citizenship. Every day brings news of some atrocity against these historical victims of caste oppression. South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), an organization of the South Asian diaspora in Canada utterly deplores the latest of these in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) recently won the state elections and appointed a HIndu priest and ultra-nationalist, Yogi Adityanath, as Chief Minister.
On May 5 a procession celebrating the Rajput king Maharana Pratap, playing loud music, was taken out by the Rajputs, the dominant caste in the area, through a Dalit neighborhood in a village in Saharanpur. As this was in violation of a government ban on such processions in this area with volatile caste relations and Dalits had earlier been denied permission to celebrate the birth anniversary of their icon, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Dalits protested against the procession. In the ensuing clashes a Rajput died of unknown causes and several Dalits were injured. While the police remained inactive but arrested several Dalits, the Rajputs retaliated by burning down 60 homes in Shabbirpur village and unleashing an attack in which several Dalits were injured and sent to hospital. More than half the Dalit homes in the village were locked up and abandoned as people fled in fear of further violence from the upper caste or the police.
On May 9 the Bheem Army, a Dalit organization created by the local young lawyer, Chandrashekhar, called a peaceful rally in Saharanpur to protest the violence against Dalits in Shabbirpur village, seek compensation for the victims, and demand that the police release the arrested Dalits and take action against the upper-caste culprits. However, this was met with a baton-charge by the police with the allegation that the rally had been illegally organized by the use of social media, leading to dispersed violence through two cities, in which a police station was attacked and several vehicles set on fire.
While no one from the government has visited Shabbirpur village and no compensation has been offered to the Dalits who lost their homes, though the dead Rajput’s family has been compensated, the police are conducting a witch hunt for members of the Bheem Army and its leader, Chandrashekhar. It is understood that the state government wants to charge Chandrashekhar under the National Security Act (NSA), though the Bheem Army’s protest against caste violence has no bearing on national security. We condemn this violence of caste society and its state against Dalits. We demand that the witch hunt against Bheem Army and Chandrashekhar be withdrawn and the victims of caste violence be duly compensated.