Other States

Decoding Shabbirpur’s shame

Fear grips town: The police keep a vigil at Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur district on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: R_V_Moorthy

“The Thakurs came armed with swords, and kerosene torches. It was like a battle scene in the Mahabharata. Almost 3,000 of them charging towards our section of the village to destroy it,” recalls Pradeep Kumar, a Dalit resident of Shabbirpur village in Saharanpur district of western Uttar Pradesh.

Although 10 days have passed since the day caste-based violence broke out at the village, the Dalit residents have not returned home.

Many of them are still recuperating in hospital, while others are taking refuge in a neighbouring village fearing for their life. Those Dalits still living in Shabbirpur, mostly its older residents, say they do not have the energy to leave the village.

Houses torched

A row of 30 to 40 houses torched and vandalised bear testimony to the brutality of the attack.

The doors broken down, household items burnt, grocery shops ransacked and cycles, fans and utensils lying in a mangled heap.

“Look at this door. It has been broken open with its padlock still in place. They did not want to spare anybody and wanted to show their dominance over us. The attack lasted nearly three hours. Thankfully, they did not kill the cattle,” says Swaraj Singh standing outside his grocery store that was burnt down. Tension between members of the two castes began in April before Ambedkar Jayanti when the Dalits of the village wanted to install a bust of B.R. Ambedkar on a private property in the compound of the Ravidas Temple.

The Thakurs allegedly objected and stalled the installation of the bust saying that “permission had not been granted”.

On May 5, when members of the Thakur community from Shabbirpur village were on their way to the nearby Simlana village to garland the statue of Maharana Pratap, the Dalit residents objected to the loud music being played by them in their procession and allegedly started throwing stones.

Thakur killed

In the clash, a 35-year-old Thakur from a nearby village, Sumit Rajput, was injured and later died.

As an act of vengeance, the Thakurs vandalised the Dalit homes.

Mahendra, a Thakur living in the village says that those people who torched the homes of the Dalits were not from Shabbirpur but outsiders.

Blame on outsiders

“We have lived in peace for so many years. We even make donations to the Ravidas Temple and both Ambedkar Jayanti and Maharana Pratap Jayanti is celebrated with equal fervour. The entire incident was caused by outsiders and now our children are being accused,” he says.

Virendra Kumar, a constable who has been on duty at the village, says that there has been peace in the village since then because many of the people from both communities have fled.

The Dalits feel that the government has not shown any sympathy towards them and are demanding compensation.

“Politicians have done nothing and those organisations like the Bheem Army that wanted to hold a “mahasabha” to demand justice for Dalits on May 9 are being attacked by the police.

The leaders of the Bheem Army have either been picked up by the police or they have gone into hiding after clashes with the police at Gandhi Maidan in Saharanpur town,” says Sumit Kumar, who hails from nearby Maheshpur village.


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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 8:36:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/decoding-shabbirpurs-shame/article18452296.ece

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