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Once Upon A Scream In Muzaffarnagar

Dalit, Jat, Muslim.... Western UP’s social fabric is coming apart. Politics leaves things at a loose end.

Once Upon A Scream In Muzaffarnagar
Merry | Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari
Once Upon A Scream In Muzaffarnagar
outlookindia.com
2017-07-08T11:19:04+05:30

On a sultry June afternoon, Tara Singh crossed the Ganga-Yam­una doab, from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh down to New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. He was joining thousands of other protesters, demanding justice for the Dalits of Shabbirpur in Saharanpur, whose homes were burned after clashes with local Rajputs in May. “The Yogi government has emboldened UP’s Thakurs,” says Tara. “They want to suppress us Dalits but we are unafraid.”

The spectacular electoral victory of the BJP in the northern state may signal a decline in Mayawati’s party, the BSP. It may also suggest a vacuum in Dalit politics—one that a leader such as Chandra­shekhar Azad, Bhim Sena’s founder, might try to fill. Yet, many Dalits of western UP—for the flame from Shabbirpur has now spread across the entire region—want to prove just the converse is true. “We support Chandra­she­khar and his Bhim Sena but only as a social movement. Mayawati remains our unequivocal political choice,” says Lokendra from Muza­ff­arnagar. He’s not alone in saying so. The sentiment is echoed across many parts of this large swathe, including in Muza­ffarnagar and Shamli—two volatile districts that offer a snap­shot of the shifting canvas of community relations that characterises the region.

“Almost all of UP is caught up in communal or caste conflicts. That has awakened the Dalits, though they were initially despondent after the BSP’s defeat in the polls,” says Dr Bale Ram, a professor and Dalit rights activist at Jansath. Accord­ing to him, the BJP consciously avoided wooing Mayaw­ati’s core supporters, the Jatavs. By this, he feels, the BJP managed to drive a schism between the most vocal and politically conscious elements among BSP’s supporters and the more...

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