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SANDEEP PANDEY | 30 APRIL, 2018

Friend or Enemy of Dalits?

Dalit Mitra award for UP CM


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 Allahabad High Court described the four cases against Ravan and 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 a complete 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 Adityanath 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 manufactured 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 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. Darapuri, cases against SC/STs have relatively gone up in 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 Hindu Yuva 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 thieves.'

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 under the Adityanath government in the past year or so since it was elected. However, two events stand out as Dalits were not allowed to install statues of Gautam Buddha and Dr. Ambedkar on Ambedkar Jayanti day in Barabanki and Sitapur this year.

In the police station Deva of district Barabanki there is village Sarsaundi in which 0.202 hectares of land numbered 312 in the Gram Sabha documents has been earmarked for Ambedkar Park. The villagers wanted to install a Ambedkar statue on his birth anniversary. 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 department official, filed a false report that the land in question was 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 reportedly regret having signed the document. When an enquiry was made with the Land Consolidation office, no case was found to be pending there. Quite clearly the Lekhpal is not supportive of Dalit rights.

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 wanted to install statues of Gautam Buddha and Ambedkar on his personal land. The four walls of an unfinished temple are on the adjacent land. 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 agreeable to 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 and this could lead to tensions if Ambedkar’s statue is now installed next to the temple. 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. A simple matter has thus acquired larger dimensions through official intervention, that could lead to unnecessary tensions.

The people may have to approach the court of law, which will be a costly affair. Clearly the Dalit Mitra is not a mitra at all.

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