Rahul Gandhi on Saturday met the victims of Saharanpur caste clashes and their family members at the district’s border after authorities denied him permission to visit the violence-hit area.
Congress leader P L Punia, who accompanied Gandhi during the visit, said the party vice president promised the victims that he will work for ensuring justice to them.
“The administration tried to stop me on the UP border but I walked to Shahjahanpur Chauki, Saharanpur, where I met the families of the victims,” Gandhi said in a tweet.
“Today there is no place for the poor or the weak in India. The Dalits are being crushed, being pressed -- not only in UP but in entire India,” he added.
Gandhi also appealed to the administration to get an impartial probe done into the cases of violence and take steps for peace and brotherhood, Punia said.
The district administration had refused permission for a visit by Gandhi to the violence-hit zone and he was stopped at the Saharanpur border by officials amid elaborate security arrangements.
Punia said Gandhi asked the district authorities about the legal provisions under which he was being denied entry into Saharanpur which has witnessed clashes between Thakurs and Dalits. He had planned to visit Shabbirpur village, where Dalit houses were torched on May 5.
The Congress vice president met the victims and their families at a roadside eatery at the district’s border.
“Though Rahul Gandhi asked the administration to allow him to visit the hospital to meet the victims admitted there, he was told that all of them have been discharged,” Punia said, claiming that last night he had gone to a hospital from where around 23 people were discharged “abruptly”.
According to him, Gandhi was told about incidents of violence and how 58 houses of Dalits were set afire.
The victims and their families also told Gandhi about a “meagre” compensation of Rs 5.12 lakh in total being disbursed to them so far, Punia said, claiming that those who “perpetrated” the trouble have got “handsome compensation”.
The district magistrate assured Gandhi that he will review the compensation given to the victims, he said.
Gandhi, who reached Saharanpur border from Delhi on Saturday morning, left for the national capital after the meeting with the victims, he added.
The victims demanded that as the post-mortem report of an upper caste youth, who was believed to have died during hurling of brickbats, stated suffocation to be the cause of death, the three persons arrested for it should be released, Punia said.
Earlier, Additional director general of police (Law and Order)Aditya Misra, camping in Saharanpur in view of the tense situation there, had said Gandhi would not be allowed entry as the administration wanted to avoid any “confusion and provocation”.
The ADG had also warned that a legal action would be initiated against the Congress vice president if he violated the law.
Violence first broke out about 40 days ago following a procession to mark Ambedkar Jayanti. On May 5, one person was killed and 15 people were injured in clashes in which houses of Dalits in Shabbirpur village were allegedly 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 had suspended the senior superintendent of police 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 district administration restore peace in the region.
Images: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi meets victims of Saharanpur clashes at the district’s border. Photographs: PTI Photos