How administrative mishandling can lead to intense caste war, Uttar Pradesh’s Saharanpur is a clear example. Three persons have so far lost their life and several others injured in clashes between upper caste Thakur community members and the Dalits in the district. Clash started between them on small issues. While commemorating Maharana Pratap anniversary, the Thakur community members took out a procession amid loud and cacophonic music. Dalit community members objected to it as the procession was going through their makeshift huts and ‘Kachacha’ houses. Following this, arguments started between them and soon it turned violent, of which an eighteen year- old boy became the first victim. It was expected that the district administration would leave no stone unturned to stop it from becoming a caste riot. But it didn’t happen. And this is what continued law and order mess in the district suggests. In Shabbirpur village, the epicenter of clash, a mob from upper caste community set on fire 54 Dalit houses, resulting in further flaring of tension. In the untamed violent atmosphere of the district, one more life was lost and two others injured.
But again, instead of buck stopping at rioters’ doors, the civil administration did nothing in terms of beefing up the area with high-level security and taking actions against culprits, resulting in more clashes and death. Several police vehicles were set ablaze, while 12 policemen were also injured in the caste-based riots. But then for the newly formed BJP-led government under Yogi Adityanath, the incident has served as a crude reminder of Uttar Pradesh being a complex society where even an inconsequential issue takes no time to become controversial and a bloody one. He should not forget that under the Akhilesh Yadav government more than 200 riots took place and that law and order in the state was the major reason behind its defeat in the just concluded assembly polls.
Has Saharanpur incident hit Yogi government’s image?
Indeed, the Saharanpur caste clash incident has besmirched the image of the Yogi government. Coming to power on the promises of toning up law and order of the state, caste-based clash has come as a rude shock to the people. More so in the background of the fact that Home department of the state is with the Chief Minister and that he monitors everything very closely. He has otherwise removed Senior Superintendent of Police S C Dubey and others for the reported inaction against rioters in Saharanpur district’s Shabbirpur village, but the damage has been done. It has damaged social cohabitations. It has also imparted incalculable political damage to the new government in the state in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular. After a gap of fifteen years, the BJP and its alliance partners could form a government in the state because people voted for Prime Minister Modi. His image as a no-nonsense leader with unshakable commitment to provide good governance was the factor behind electorates’ choice to give more than a thumping majority to the BJP and its alliance partners which romped in with 326 seats in the 403-member UP assembly. The caste riot in Saharanpur has torn asunder the image.
Will Thakur vs Dalit clash benefit BSP?
Since there is no election in the immediate future, the incident could hardly be encashed by the Bahujan Samaj Party or its supremo, Mayawati. Although she visited Shabbirpur village after clash broke out between Thakurs and Dalit, but how far it would benefit her party, is in the realm of conjecture. The next assembly polls in the state are going to happen in 2022 and the parliamentary election is due in 2019. As such, in no way she would harvest the electoral crop by playing Dalit politics card. Yet one cannot reject Mayawati’s political acumen to turn the table against the ruling dispensation. She is known for her gutsiness. To keep herself on the top of Dalit leadership in the state, she may use the incident and others to drive a wedge between Dalit and the BJP, the saffron party which is feverishly trying to win the former away from Mayawati’s clutches.
The BJP knows that the 2019 parliamentary election is very important for the party. In order to make return of Modi to power at the Centre possible, the saffron party will have to woo Dalits to its side. In the 2014 parliamentary polls and also in Uttar Pradesh assembly election, Jatav, a Dalit community of which former UP Chief Minister and BSP boss Mayawati belongs to, voted overwhelmingly for the BSP. The saffron party was, however, successful in winning over non-Jatav votes. The BSP scored zero in the parliamentary polls, but could win 19 seats in assembly election in Uttar Pradesh—giving a major setback to the BSP’s dream of becoming a ruling party in the state. The Dalit-based party was also pushed to the margins of state politics. However, the Shabbirpur village incident could enable the BSP and its supremo to remain in political relevance, even as there is no election in the immediate future to make it reap the political benefits.
The ruling establishment in Uttar Pradesh is certainly responsible for delay in containing the fire of caste fight. Before things go out of control, the Yogi government should fairly deal with the situation and allow justice to prevail in the riot-hit area in an impartial manner.