The Dalits had sought permission to hold the 'mahapanchayat' to demand compensation for those affected in last week's inter-caste clashes, particularly in Shabbirpur village where 25 Dalit homes were torched. They claimed that as the gathered crowds grew restive, the police took action.
"Some of our people came together yesterday to put forward our demands. We are locals and even the sarpanch knows us, so we could have had a dialogue. But they (the police) lathicharged us," said Walia, a Dalit from Ramnagar village.
Stone-throwing and vandalism were reported from at least three places in the district. Around 12 motorbikes were torched and a police post was set on fire. At least two senior police officers suffered head injuries while trying to control the mob.
Violence in the district began on April 20 when Sadak Dudhli village witnessed clashes between two communities over an 'Ambedkar Shobha Yatra' organised by local BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal. Police authorities had objected to the Yatra then on grounds that the MP didn't have the requisite permission to carry out his Yatra in communally sensitive parts of the city.
The upper caste members of neighbouring villages contend that the Dalits had set their own homes on fire. "After killing the boy, out of fear that they may get into trouble, especially in a Rajput dominated area, they (Dalits) set their own vehicles of fire and set some of their houses on fire," said Vijaykant, a Thakur sarpanch from a neighbouring village.
Four days later, in the most recent incident, caste-based violence escalated after Dalit groups opposed the celebration of the birth anniversary of Maharana Pratap - the legendary Rajput ruler and icon for the Thakur community, and demanded that a 'mahapanchayat' be organised to redress the violence in Shabbirpur. A faction of young Dalits known as the 'Bhim Army' also contended that they had not been allowed to hold processions during the birth anniversary of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar in April. There were even reports that a statue of Dr Ambedkar had been vandalized.
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