Lucknow, Aug. 13: Forty-eight Dalits were injured — some grievously — when a group of armed Thakurs today tried to dispossess them of gram sabha land in a remote village of Mau district in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
Sensing that the incident could lead to a caste war in the state, the home secretary and the police chief went to the spot. A large armed police force has been posted in the village.
Reports reaching here said the Thakurs fired on the Dalits who had gathered to oppose attempts to drive them off the land.
“Nearly two dozen Dalits with gunshot injuries have been rushed to hospitals. The condition of seven was reported serious,” the additional director-general of police (law and order), Vikram Singh, said.
Chief minister Mayavati condemned the incident, attributing it to “the Opposition conspiracy” to destabilise her government. “My government is committed to the protection of Dalits and weaker sections and those involved in today’s Mau riots would be sternly dealt with,” she said.
BJP leader Lalji Tandon said the incident was the result of a property dispute and would have no adverse impact on his party’s somewhat strained relations with its ally, Mayavati’s BSP.
A section of the BJP leadership, however, felt that any impression of the Mayavati government adopting a partisan attitude towards the victims could spur dissidence among the party’s Thakur legislators who have opposed the alliance with the BSP from the beginning.
This morning’s clash appeared to be the outcome of a property dispute pending in the Mau civil court. The Thakurs of Tajopur village had claimed ownership over 15 hectares of farmland in the village’s revenue records, but the Dalits challenged their cultivation right.
They claimed that the land belonged to the gram sabha which had been allotted to the Dalits in accordance with the Mayavati government’s policy.
The Dalits had gone to cultivate the land this morning when an army of Thakurs in five tractor-trolleys swooped on them and asked them to leave. When the Dalits resisted, the Thakurs opened fire.
“Though there have been sporadic incidents of violence involving the recently empowered Dalit elite and upper-caste landholders during the present BSP-BJP regime, the Mau incident appeared to be pre-planned,” said a senior police official.