Poll violence, attacks on Dalits, Muslims: What is happening in UP?

Dalits OBCs may get a couple of Cabinet berths, but nothing seems to have changed on the streets of the state

DalitsImage Courtesy:amarujala.com

Much is being made up of the inclusion of Dalit and Other Backward Classes (OBC) members in the newly expanded Cabinet, even more is being read into the inlcudion of leaders from Uttar Pradesh. Put together this newly ‘refreshed’ Cabinet is said to have the possibility of helping the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retain power in Uttar Pradesh, a state considered politically coveted for most mainstream parties due to its sheer size. However, local election season in UP has begun with violence reported from at least 18 districts as the elections for panchayat block chiefs took place on the weekend.

According to Indian Express, in Etawah, seeing stone-pelting and firing at Barhpura block was reported, and the local police are also investigating video where Prashant Kumar Prasad the Etawah ASP (City) is heard saying that BJP leaders “brought bombs” and slapped him. The IE reported that the officer said, “They brought stones. They slapped me too. They brought bombs, BJP people, the MLA and district chief.” Media reports also stated that violence and clashes took place in other areas including Unnao, Hathras, Amethi, Ballia, Siddharth Nagar, Kanpur, Mau, Hamirpur, Amroha, Lucknow, Sultanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Aligarh, Firozabad, Pratapgarh, Kanpur Dehat, Chandauli.  

According to IE, in Hathras district’s Sikandra Rao block, supporters of a candidate allegedly engaged in vandalism and rioting. In Bahraich district, two policemen, including a station in-charge, were suspended in connection with the killing of a Block Development Committee (BDC) member Yadurai Devi’s relative on Thursday, “while trying to prevent an alleged attempt by a poll candidate’s husband and supporters to abduct Devi,” an unnamed police officer was quoted by IE. According to the news report, Sudhir Yagyasaini, the main accused in the case, is the husband of Sarita Yagyaseni, who was backed by the BJP for the Shivpur block chief’s post. She won in the elections held on Saturday, getting 70 votes against 50 for her rival, who was backed by the Samajwadi Party. While the BJP is celebrating such wins, there has been an eerie silence on the large number of violent incidents, which seem to be nearly normalised in Uttar Pradesh as Assembly poll related activity begins gaining speed. 

What will happen during UP Elections 2022?

One would think that with UP state assembly elections 2022 in view, the incumbent state government too will be on an overdrive to showcase good governance, especially when it comes to law and order, or issues concerned with food and financial security, and those regarding community welfare, especially religious and caste minorities. However, news from UP, especially reported by independent media in just the past week has recorded attacks on minorities, Dalits, Bahujans and other citizens on a regular basis. Most attacks are by vigilante groups, who have appointed themselves custodians of the so called upper castes, and as worryingly an assault by a senior bureaucrat was even recorded on video.

It is yet to be seen if the Uttar Pradesh government has, apart from following the process in some cases, done anything to prevent some attacks. In just the past week UP’s hall of shame has recorded the following cases of violence.

Violence during block elections, women alleged molestation

Two women workers of the Samajwadi Party (SP) have alleged that they were molested when the nomination process for the block elections were underway. These local elections have been marked with violence, of various degrees. After these serious allegations, Indian Express reported that the Uttar Pradesh Police “suspended six of its men, including a Circle Officer and an SHO”. The molestation was alleged by the proposer of an SP candidate in Lakhimpur Kheri district. She accused BJP workers of pushing her around and molesting her; the video clips were still viral over the weekend. According to news reports, District SP president Ram Pal Yadav also alleged that after misbehaving with the woman, “BJP workers had entered the block office and removed the clothes of the SP candidate.”

Dalit man tied to tree, thrashed, assuatled on genitals

One person was arrested for mercilessly beating a 20-year-old Dalit man, even though the viral video shows that there are many more involved in the crime, inlcuding those who merely stood and watched as the victim was beaten with sticks. The crime was reported from the Akbarpur area in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur Dehat district. The attack seems to have been filmed by multiple people. The victim was asked to identify his caste even as he was being beaten, and once he revealed that he was a Dalit, the attack grew even more vicious. The victim was assaulted in the genitals with a wooden pole and continued to be  battered to an inch of  his life.

According to NDTV, Ghanshyam Chaurasiya, additional SP, Kanpur Dehat claimed, “As soon as we got to know about the video, a police case was filed in the matter. A person identified in the viral video has been arrested. Two more people can be seen beating the Dalit youth. We are trying to find out their details and teams have been formed to arrest them.” However, the question remains: why was the beating not even reported when it took place? 

IAS officer Divyanshu Patel assaults journalist

In May, when he was posed as a sub-divisional magistrate in Barabanki, Patel had ordered that the 100 year old mosque be demolished in Barabanki.  On May 17, following the orders of the SDM’s court, the Ram Sanehi Ghat mosque was demolished, and it was reported that the “debris was then thrown into a river” hence leaving no or little ‘evidence’ of the destruction. This destruction, had a long lasting negative impact on the locals, and the Muslim connunity at large. The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board called the administration’s action illegal. According to The Print, as the communal tensions prevailed in the area Patel was transferred to Unnao as the chief development officer (CDO). However, even here Patel seems to have continued his ways. This time, he was caught on camera attacking a video journalist in Unnao, chasing him, he also reportedly smashed the reporter’s mobile phone during the block panchayat polls, which have been marked by unprecedented violence. When Patel takes a pause, a local man takes over the assault on the video journalist. Some reports stated that two journalists were attacked. 

According to news reports, the Unnao Police registered a First Information Report (FIR) against “unnamed persons” based on a complaint made by the victims. However, as shared on social media the FIR doesn’t name Divyanshu Patel, a 2017-batch IAS officer, who was seen assaulting the journalist in the viral videos. He of course ‘clarified’ his actions and said he could not recognise Krishna Tiwari and erroneously assaulted him while ‘discharging his administrative duties’. Tiwari too has said on video that he was ‘satisfied’ with the officers explanation on the ‘unintentional’ assault. However, there is no explanation offered on why the officer had to attack any citizen in this manner, or who the other man who also attacked the journalist was. 

Dalit falimy attacked, hut set ablaze in Chandauli 

On July 8 at the Bharthara village, which is reportedly just 5 km from the district headquarters of Chandauli district, a Dalit family was attacked and their hut set ablaze. The attack, reportedly by upper caste men, was over a land dispute. According to Indian Express, four men were were arrested on Saturday for attackin the Dalit family and setting their hut on fire. Even though the incident occurred on Thursday afternoon, it was only after a video of the incident went viral on social media, that the FIR was registered. The complainant Vejanti Devi told the police that the upper caste men thrashed her family members and then set their hut on fire, said Additional Superintendent of Police, Chandauli, Dayaram. According to a local news report, around 18 Dalit families live in the village, which is reportedly dominated by members of the Thakur community. The Dalits claim that “upper caste” men have always misbehaved with them, however fear keeps the victims from approaching the police, and after short lived ‘compromise’ the cycle of victimisation continues.

62-year-old man beaten in Noida 

Attacks on Muslims, Dalits, and women are not limited to far away villages where mainstream media does not reach. Another attack, this time on a 62-year-old man, identified as Kaazim Ahmad, was reported from Noida in the National Capital Region (NCR). Ahmad, told the media that it was his visible Muslim identity that made him an easy target for the attackers who beat him mercilessly on July 4. According to Maktoob Media, Ahmad was on his way to Aligarh to attend a relative’s wedding when he was attacked and communally abused at Noida. He recalled his ordeal saying, “While I was waiting at Noida Sector-37 to get a bus for Aligarh, some people standing at a distance in a white car called me towards them. When I went there they dragged me inside the car, rolled up the windows and started beating me before I could ask or say anything.” He added, “They slipped off my pyjamas, attacked me with a screwdriver on the nose, took away all my money, belongings and spectacles. They pulled my beard and tried to strangle my neck with their towel.” 

A police complaint has been filed by Kazim at the Noida Sector 37 police station, but the family wants to stay away from the media spotlight as they fear repercussions, especially in a state where religious and caste identities decide how much a citizen will be victimised.


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