Baghpat: The administration of Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) Baghpat district demolished the tanning units of Dalits in Bhadal village on May 7 without prior notice with the police beating up protesters.
Subsequently, the Shoshit Kranti Dal (SKD) sent a written complaint to chief minister Yogi Adityanath and governor Anandiben Patel.
During a press conference held on Tuesday, SKD president Ravikant alleged that “atrocities against Dalits in the state have increased significantly in the last few years”. Pointing to the demolition of the tanneries, he said that the Dalits, who had been doing the ancestral business for hundreds of years, had built the units with “their blood and sweat and it was the only source of their livelihood”.
According to the organisation, more than 100 families were affected by the demolition and seven protesters were arrested. As per news reports, 22 protesters were injured during the police lathi charge. The arrested—Sumita, alias Chhoti, Anita, Kavita, alias Priya, Ravindra, Pravendra, Vinod and Munna—including minors, were released on bail on Monday evening.
In 2018, the National Green Tribunal had given an ex parte order prohibiting tanning in the area. Dalits agreed to shut down the units provided they were provided an alternative land and finance to build new units. The community has protested several times under SKD’s leadership and submitted a memorandum to the district administration.
“The Shoshit Kranti Dal tried to contact district officer Raj Kamal Yadav several times over the phone after receiving information that units were being demolished. He didn’t answer and one official informed us that Yadav was busy in an important meeting,” Ravikant said. Despite Ravikant later apprising Meerut divisional commissioner Surendra Singh of the incident, the “bulldozers continued demolishing the tanneries till late evening”.
In December 2021, the government had informed Parliament that 1,39,045 cases of crimes against Dalits in various states were registered between 2018 and 2020 with 50,291 such offences in the previous year. According to home ministry data, the maximum number of crimes, 36,467, against Scheduled Castes were registered in UP in the said three years.
“The village is guarded by the police and people are scared. Some villagers have already left. Just a day before the incident, Adityanath had visited the houses of the Dalit community and shared pictures of himself and the members with the public. However, the Baghpat administration is repressing Dalits,” Ravikant said. “The feudal thinking was evident when even houses of several Dalits were demolished and they were sent to jail along with their family members.”
SKD has demanded immediate action against officials who led the bulldozers without any order and information, lathi-charged the Dalits and demolished their personal property. It has also demanded appropriate compensation for the affected and withdrawal of cases against the protesters.
Ravikant also demanded land for the construction of alternative tanning units, financial assistance and compensation. The organisation has warned of a large-scale movement if the demands are not accepted within three days.
The writer is a freelance journalist.