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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 21 New Delhi May 12, 2018

Friend or Enemy of Dalits?

Sunday 13 May 2018, by Sandeep Pandey

Dr Ambedkar Mahasabha honoured the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath with Dalit Mitra or Friend of the Dalit award on the birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, April 14, 2018 in Lucknow.

This is the same government which had arrested Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan, the founder of Bhim Army which runs over 300 education centres for Dalit children in Saharanpur. On November 2, 2017 the High Court described the four cases against Ravan and his colleague Kamal Walia as politically motivated and gave them bail. As soon as Ravan was released the National Security Act was imposed to arrest him again. This exhibits lack of faith of the UP Government in Dalits in general.

During the nationwide protests organised on April 2, 2018 against the perceived weakening of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, by the Supreme Court, the Yogi Government was involved in brutal suppression of the movement. In Meerut one Dalit youth was killed in police firing, cases registered against 9000 people, of which about 500 were arrested. Locally maufactured pistols were planted on some youth before their arrest so that the Arms Act could be used against them. In Muzaffarnagar too a Dalit youth was killed in police firing, cases registered against 7000 people, of which about 250-300 were arrested. In Saharanpur cases were registered against 900 Bhim Army activists. In Allahabad cases were registered against 27 students who participated in this movement. In the above mentioned cases sections related to rioting, causing damage to public property, obstructing public servant from performing his/her duty, attempt to murder and Arms Act were used. In Meerut a former Member of the Legislative Assembly, Yogesh Verma, also husband of Mayor Sunita Verma belonging to the Bahujan Samaj Party, was first called to assist in controlling the law and order situation but was later humiliated and arrested from the spot. Will such a government be considered a Dalit-friendly government? According to retired Inspector General of Police in Uttar Pradesh S.R. Daprapuri, cases against SC/STs have relatively gone up in the Bharatiya Janata Party ruled states.

In February 2018 a Dalit girl Moni was riding a bicycle to the market when some people poured petrol over her and set her on fire. She tried to run to save her life but collapsed after a while. Earlier in January in Rasra, Ballia two Dalit youth were caught by members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini on the charge of cow theft. Their heads were shaved and they were taken around the village with placards hanging from their necks saying ‘We are cow theives.’ In March in Ballia itself Sonu Singh and Siddharth Singh were putting pressure on Reshma Devi, a Dalit woman, who had borrowed and returned Rs 20,000, to pay interest. When she did not acquiesce, petrol was poured over her and she was set on fire.

Many such incidents of atrocities against Dalits can be recounted during the Yogi Government. However, two events stand out as Dalits were not allowed to install statues of Gautam Buddha and Dr Ambedkar on the Ambedkar Jayanti Day in Barabanki and Sitapur this year.

In the police station Deva of district Barabanki there is a village Sarsaundi in which 0.202 hectares of land, numbered 312 in the Gram Sabha documents, has been earmarked for an Ambedkar Park. The villagers wanted to install a Ambedkar statue on the birthday of Dr Ambedkar. Permission for the event was sought and obtained from the police and Member of Parliament, Priyanka Singh Rawat. But right before the event the Lekhpal, Kamlesh Sharma, a village level Revenue Deprtment official, filed a false report that the land in question is disputed and a case was pending with the Land Consolidation Officer. Complainant Kanhaiyya Lal is owner of a nearby brick kiln but not a citizen of the GS. Two residents of village Kabir Ahmed and Pramid Chauhan have been shown as witnesses on the report, who now regret to have signed the document. When enquiry was made with the Land Consolidation office, no case was found to be pending there. Quite clearly the Lekhpal is affected by an anti-Dalit mentality.

The story of village Gumai falling in GS Ranipur Godwa and PS Thangaon of district Sitapur is even more interesting. A resident of the village Gulshan s/o Banwari wants to install statues of Gautam Buddha and Dr Ambedkar on his personal land. On the adjacent piece of land four walls of an unfinished temple stand. The structure doesn’t have a ceiling and there are no deities installed inside. This land belongs to Jagrani whose late husband Medilal was earlier the Gram Pradhan and she is also in consonance with the idea of installation of two statues of Buddha and Ambedkar. In fact, the two statues already procured are kept in her house which is the only permanent residential structure in the village. Some upper-caste people under the patronage of BJP MLA Gyan Tiwari have opposed the idea of installation of these statues. None of them are residents of the GS Ranipur Godwa and in that sense are outsiders. The police has filed a report under their influence that a dispute could erupt if Ambedkar’s statue is installed next to a Goddess’ temple. Jagrani, the owner of the land on which four walls of incomplete temple stand, and Gulshan, on whose land statues are to be installed, have no dispute between them.

A situation has been created in these two villages that now the villagers in favour of installation of statues will have to seek the permission of the government through their respective District Magistrates. In both cases the issue has been made a victim of unnecessary bureaucratic entanglement from which an immediate solution may not emerge. The people may have to approach the court of law, which will be a costly affair. The anti-Dalit mindset of people in the party, government and adminis-tration of a ‘Dalit-friendly’ CM are at naked play in the two cases.

Noted social activist and Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey is the Vice-President of the Socialist Party (India). He was elected to this post at the founding conference of the party at Hyderabad on May 28-29, 2011.

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