Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh: The town of Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh is still tense after a near-riot broke out last week, over a yatra or procession taken out by BJP member of Parliament Raghav Lakhanpal. Six people were injured in clashes during the march, meant to be held in recognition of Dr BR Ambedkar and which violated police orders by entering a Muslim-dominated village in Saharanpur.
- Unrest flared in UP's Saharanpur over rally by BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal
- Mr Lakhanpal denied he had any role to play in organising the event
- Police records, villagers counter his claims
Videos show the BJP MP addressing a crowd at the entry to the village, where he attacks Love Kumar, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Saharanpur, for denying permission for the yatra. He also assures the crowd that Mr Kumar will be transferred.
A week later, Mr Kumar was indeed transferred out of Saharanpur by the BJP government in UP.
In an interview to NDTV four days after the incident, Mr Lakhanpal denied he had any role to play in organising the event. He said that invitation for the yatra came to him from the Dalits of the Sadak Dudhli village. "An invitation to this effect was given to me at my residence. I reached the place at the particular day and time," he said.
But members of the Dalit community of the village told NDTV that no invitation was sent from them to the BJP MP. In fact, the Dalits alleged, they were approached by a representative of the MP to hold the 'Shobha Yatra'. They agreed, only if the BJP could procure the required permissions, they said.
"One person (from the BJP) came and spoke to us. We told him that we will do Shobha Yatra only if they have permission. They kept saying that they will get the yatra done; their government is at the centre and in the state," said Naresh Gautam from Sadak Dudhli village.
When the Dalits in the village found the BJP had not received permission to hold the yatra, they wrote a letter to the district administration informing them that they had already conducted a meeting in the village on April 14th commemorating Dr Ambedkar and they do not need another yatra.
"We had to clear our point. Had we not done it, the problem would have come on our heads," said Mr Gautam.
Police records show that permission for the yatra was sought on April 12 by a person named Devender Agarwal who belongs to the right-wing group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which is linked to the BJP.
The same day, a police official was sent to the village to assess the situation. On April 13, the police rejected the application in writing on the ground that the situation in the village is not conducive to hold the rally.
Following the written rejection, another person named Ashok Bharti, also associated with the VHP as per the police, was reportedly in constant communication with the SSP office over the phone for the yatra. But the police refused to give a go-ahead.
Despite the denial, the BJP lawmaker went ahead with the rally on April 20.
NDTV tried to contact both Mr Agarwal and Mr Bharti, but their phones remained switched off.
"Will ensure action is taken. No one will be spared," UP's new police chief Sulkhan Singh has said.
Six first information reports or FIRs have been filed in the incident which left six people injured and shops looted and ransacked.
The police has arrested 16 people so far but Raghav Lakhanpal and his brother Rahul Lakhanpal, who are also named in one of the FIRs, are yet to be questioned by the police.