Saharanpur(Uttar Pradesh): Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi blamed the Union government on Saturday for the violence in Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur but was blocked from entering the town torn apart by caste clashes that has killed three people and injured scores.
Rahul was speaking at the border of the western UP district rocked by clashes between Dalit and Thakur communities that has also seen more than 50 houses of Scheduled Caste families burnt down. "Dalits are being crushed not only in Saharanpur but all over the country and the BJP-led Centre is responsible," he said after interacting with Dalit families who had come from Shabbirpur, the epicentre of the current caste clashes in the communally-sensitive Sahranpur district.
Rahul met two Dalit brothers, Badal and Sawan, whose hut was attacked in the violence on May 9 and ensured them a fair probe into the incident. "I asked him (Gandhi) to ensure that cases against Dalits and the Bhim Army are withdrawn," said seven-year-old Badal after meeting Rahul.
The Bhim Army is a group of youths that claims to fight for Dalit rights and is also accused of inciting the violence. Rahul also blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party for stoking "anti-national" forces and unrest in Kashmir.
Rahul was denied permission to visit the affected villages as the district administration feared deterioration in the law and order situation. Senior state government officials gathered at the district border, around 30km from the epicentre, Shabbirpur, to stop Rahul. Congress' district chief Sashi Wali had sought permission for Rahul to meet the victims. The administration prohibited visit of political leaders on May 23, when violence erupted after Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati' s visit to Shabbirpur. District magistrate Pramod Singh, who denied the permission, said political leaders would be allowed to visit the affected areas only after normalcy returns.
Since Saturday afternoon, policemen in riot-gear, and senior government officials assisted by contingents of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Provincial Armed Constabulary guarded the Sarsawa check post -- Saharanpur's border with Haryana -- to stop Rahul from reaching Shabbirpur. "I wanted to go to Saharanpur but was told law and order could deteriorate. I have been assured that when the situation normalises, I will be allowed to visit them," said Rahul, who was accompanied by senior party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Raj Babbar.
Violence first broke out in Saharanpur about 40 days ago following a procession to mark Ambedkar Jayanti. On May 5, a person was killed and 15 people were injured in clashes in which houses of Dalits in Shabbirpur were torched by Thakurs. About a dozen police vehicles were set ablaze and 12 policemen were injured on May 9.
On May 23, another person was shot dead and two others were wounded, following which the government suspended the SSP and district magistrate and transferred the divisional commissioner and the deputy inspector general of police.
The Centre has sent 400 anti-riot police personnel to Saharanpur to help the state restore peace in the region. Union minister for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) Kalraj Mishra said on Saturday that Rahul should have cancelled his visit so as to avoid further communal clashes.
"Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur has become a sensitive area now and social harmony is being attacked. At this moment, his visit will make things more worse. It will hamper on a social level. His visit may entice another such communal clash which will affect the country," Mishra told ANI. Mishra said that just because BSP chief Mayawati visited the region, that does not mean Rahul should also do so.
"It will be like playing with the public's feelings," he added. On the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh, Mishra said the Yogi Adityanath government has completed just two months and it was "definitely trying hard" to control the ongoing situation.
"The Opposition leaders are trying to deteriorate the situation. I will say these unfortunate incidents are being created intentionally as they want to spoil Yogi Adityanath's name. But this will not continue now. Law and order will prevail in the state," he added.