ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dalit Assertion in Uttar Pradesh

The emergence of the Bheem Army in Saharanpur suggests a new aggression amongst UP Dalits.

The recent clashes between Thakurs and Dalits in Saharanpur district, Uttar Pradesh (UP) point towards simmering social relations and clashing cultural assertions following a change in political guard. For 15 years, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP) had effected a gradual process of democratisation of the social and political spheres in UP, championing at the very minimum social dignity for Dalits and the Backward Castes, their internal contradictions notwithstanding. The recent electoral victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the appointment of Yogi Adityanath, a Thakur, as chief minister mark a return of the forward castes to the helm of political power in the state. Emboldened by this, the Thakurs and other such dominant castes are seeking to leverage this political moment to reassert their dominance.

The first confrontation occurred on 20 April 2017, when the Jatav-Dalits of Shabirpur village, Saharanpur were poised to erect a statue of Ambedkar to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti. These plans were forestalled by the Thakurs who objected to the lack of administrative permissions for the celebrations, and the statue itself whose outstretched index finger pointed towards the upper caste locality. A second skirmish took place on 5 May 2017 when the Thakurs took out a strident procession to commemorate the birth anniversary of the medieval Rajput ruler Maharana Pratap. The Dalits stalled the procession as it entered their segregated colony, also citing lack of permissions. This time around the confrontation escalated from stone-pelting by both sides to a rampage by the Thakurs during which they burned down a significant number of Dalit houses and shops, and desecrated Dalit iconography and shrines. A Thakur youth died, many members of both communities were injured, and the Dalits fled en masse from the village fearing further violence.

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Updated On : 27th Aug, 2017

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