A second murder of a lower-caste person in the wee hours of Wednesday, the second such in less than 24 hours, rocked Saharanpur even as the Yogi Adityanath administration struggled to maintain the peace in villages surrounding Shabbirpur, where a Dalit youth was killed on Tuesday.
The state government scrambled to contain the situation, suspending Saharanpur District Magistrate NP Singh and Senior Superintendent of Police SS Dubey, and imposing Section 144 of the IPC, which prohibits the gathering of more than four persons at public places. And in an echo of Kashmir, it also ordered service providers to suspend all internet, messaging and social media services in the area until further orders. The administration said these services were being used by troublemakers to vitiate the peace in the district.
Gandevat village resident Nitin, a kumhar (potter) by caste which falls under Most Backward Caste category, was waylaid on his way to a brick kiln and attacked with knives and sickles. The incident took place between Mora and Balumajra villages which fall in Thakur Choubisi (rural slang for the 24-odd villages dominated by Rajputs), raising suspicion that this, too, was the doing of upper castes.
“It may have been personal enmity, (but) it has tilted the balance of killings in the favour of the upper caste, now there could be a backlash,” said an officer at the Bargaon police station.
He declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the situation.
Ashish, a native of Saraswa, was killed and two others – Pramod and Sachin – were critically injured on Tuesday when their jeep was waylaid near Chandpur village by Thakurs. They were returning after attending Mayawati’s rally in Shabbirpur. Thakurs allege that Dalits’ Bhim Sena members had entered their side of the village after the rally and torched their houses after abusing them.
Despite the presence of 5 PAC armed companies and three Rapid Action Force battalions, tension was palpable at the Bargaon police station. Besides, the local administration had commandeered more than a dozen PCRs from nearby districts, including Shamli and Meerut, that have villages between Maheshpur and Chandpur, the main arena of caste tensions.
“The administration has requisitioned 6 more RAF companies from as far as Delhi, Ghaziabad and Meerut. The situation on the ground is very tense after yesterday’s incident,” said an RAF officer posted at Bargaon.
The humble police station has seen frequent visits by ADG (law and order), Adesh Mishra, IG STF Amitabh Yash, and DG (Security) Vijay Bhushan, and Under-Home Secretary Mani Prasad Mishra, who has visited Shabbirpur twice. When this failed to instil confidence, the Yogi administration, not willing to take any chances, posted all the available officers on round-the-clock shifts, even drawing bureaucrats from the trade service department of Saharanpur.