Saharanpur violence: Dalits defy Delhi Police ban to protest at Jantar Mantar
Hundreds of Dalits defied a police ban to stage a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to highlight alleged atrocities against the community by Thakurs in Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur.
The capital’s favourite protest venue - Jantar Mantar – turned blue on Sunday as thousands of Dalits led by the Bhim Army, an organisation fighting for the community’s rights, staged a demonstration against the recent violence in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Despite being denied permission by Delhi Police to hold a rally, protesters dressed in blue gathered on the call of Bhim Army Ekta Mission, led by 30-year-old lawyer Chandrashekhar to fight against “oppression” by upper castes.
Cries of Jai Bhim rent the air at Jantar Mantar as several smaller organisations such as Dalit Sangarsh Morcha, Yuva Shakti Dal and youths from different parts of Western UP and Delhi also showed up to lend their support.
The protest comes after the recent violence involving Dalits and Thakurs in Saharanpur during the birth anniversary celebrations of Maharana Pratap. The skirmish took place on May 5, when a mob, allegedly from the Thakur community, ransacked and burned down 25 houses belonging to Dalits, and injured 15 members of the community in Saharanpur.
Chandrashekhar, who is wanted for his alleged involvement in the clashes between the police and the protesters on May 9, also addressed the gathering. “We have come here to fight oppression. If you kill one Chandrashekhar, thousands more will rise. The RSS and Hindu right organisations have been oppressing us for centuries, but we are not weak,” he said.
He also gave out phone numbers to protesters to call for help if they were being oppressed. He also said he was willing to surrender to police.
Many protesters said that they had gathered at the site without any organised means for mass mobilisation except for social networking sites and WhatsApps groups that publicised the event. However, there were reports of buses were arranged by local leaders for those who came from Saharanpur.
Sonu Paliwal, 28, a resident of Shimlana village in Saharanpur, said, “We are here because there had been repeated incidents of violence against Dalits. The administration in Saharanpur allows the Rajputs to hold march on Maharana Pratap Jayanti but Dalits are not allowed to celebrate Ambdekar Jayanti.”
The protestors demanded that cases be registered against those who had perpetrated violence against Dalits on May 5 and affected families be awarded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh.
They also demanded that the FIRs lodged against Chandrashekhar and other Dalit activists be cancelled and a judicial probe be initiated into the incident.
Several protesters held posters and banners decrying upper castes while many wore wearing shirts and caps with BR Ambedkar’s photo printed over them.
Ravi Prakash, convener of Dalit Sangharsh Morcha, said, “The Yogi Adityanath government in UP cares more about cows than Dalits. We are not against cow protection but it is human beings whose lives should be protected first. Our brothers in villages of UP live under fear but we will not tolerate it anymore.”
“We want to show to the government that we can unite and we can fight for our rights,” he said.
A senior official of Delhi police said that though the protest was held without permission, no one was detained because it was peaceful.