Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav has accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh of “kicking the belly” of the Nishad community, an OBC (Other Backward Class) caste, after boats belonging to them were allegedly damaged by the police and administration in Prayagraj district during an anti-mining drive.
Following the incident, the BJP’s own ally in the State, the Nishad Party, has also demanded action against the police and administrative officials who allegedly damaged the boats and lathi -charged Nishad boatmen and labourers, men and women, near the Yamuna river on February 4.
“By breaking the boats of the Nishad community in Prayagraj, the BJP government has kicked on their bellies,” Mr. Yadav tweeted.
The BJP government should immediately apologise to the Nishad community and provide them new boats for livelihood, Mr. Yadav demanded, as he accused the State government of targeting the poor.
Nishads or Mallahs are a group of riverine communities traditionally engaged with river-bed farming, boating, fisheries and other similar activities.
On February 4, a joint team of police personnel and administrative and mining officials landed up at Mohabbatganj and Baswar village in the Trans-Yamuna area of the district, after complaints of alleged sand mining in the river. Dozens of people on boats were digging sand out of the Yamuna, said the Prayagraj police.
Officials explained to the people there that they were engaging in illegal work and illegal mining, and that legal action could be taken against them, said the police.
Local television channels and portals showed police chase people assembled at the spot with batons in order to evict them.
Sanjay Nishad, president of the Nishad Party, whose son Praveen Nishad won the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Sant Kabir Nagar on a BJP ticket, in a statement accused the police of lathi charge on “innocent women and children” for alleged illegal sand mining, and the use of an earthmover to break some boats belonging to the community.
Prayagraj police, however, in a statement said that when the official team reached there, the people on the spot started to get “aggressive”, and insisted on carrying on with the mining. A person from the crowd then pelted stones that hit the earthmover, police said.