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2 Jun 2017

BJP prods Yogi for Dalit salve - Check clashes & project impartiality, CM told

TT, New Delhi, June 1: The BJP central leadership is concerned that the Saharanpur clashes have led to the Yogi Adityanath government being portrayed as anti-Dalit, and has asked the chief minister to take corrective measures to salvage the party's image, sources said.
The nudge to Adityanath comes at a time scores of Dalit families in Saharanpur have begun converting to Buddhism in protest at oppression by the upper caste Thakurs, undermining the BJP's hopes of expanding its base among the community. The Dalits have alleged collusion between Adityanath, a Thakur, and his caste brethren.
A BJP insider said the central leadership realised that Adityanath's government had "mishandled" the Saharanpur violence, letting the Thakur-Dalit clashes spread, but attributed it to his administrative inexperience.
"The Yogi government has been told to ensure the clashes don't spread to other districts," a BJP source said.
He expressed satisfaction that the violence had remained confined to a part of Saharanpur district.
Saharanpur has witnessed several small and big clashes since the May 5 violence in Shabbirpur village, which left a Thakur dead and dozens of Dalit homes and crop fields burnt down.
A Dalit protest had turned violent in Saharanpur city on May 9, and an attack on people returning from Mayawati's May 23 meeting at Shabbirpur killed a Dalit and injured many.
With police raiding the homes of supporters of the Bhim Army, an avowedly non-violent group formed to unite Dalits against oppression, the community has been alleging that the government is targeting the victims rather than the attackers.
BJP sources said that Adityanath had been asked try and win the Dalits' trust by showing himself as an even-handed administrator, and thus prevent rival political parties and Dalit activists from "taking advantage of the situation".
It's partly for this reason that the Adityanath government has so far refrained from arresting Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad despite there being two FIRs against him, accusing him of fomenting violence and defaming the chief minister on the social media.
Sources said the BJP was trying to reach out to Chandrashekhar, 29, through various channels. They said that Chandrashekhar had once been associated with Sangh student wing ABVP and this made them hopeful of winning him over.
"Reaching out to the Dalits and bringing them under the Hindutva umbrella is a priority for us. All Sangh parivar outfits have been asked to work in concert towards the target," a BJP senior said.
However, Adityanath suffered a public relations disaster during his recent Dalit outreach efforts. Reports said that ahead of the chief minister's visit to a Musahar Dalit village in eastern Uttar Pradesh, the local administration had distributed soap and shampoo among the villagers so they could "clean themselves" before the meeting.
The reports underscored the stereotype that upper caste members like Adityanath consider the Dalits "dirty".
"Mistakes have been committed but we won't allow Adityanath to be identified as a Thakur leader," a BJP leader said.
Adityanath had been picked to head the Uttar Pradesh government against caste logic - the chief minister of neighbouring Uttarakhand is a Thakur too - solely to promote the Hindutva agenda in the heartland state. At that time, the party had argued that a monk like Adityanath would not be seen as belonging to any caste.
With that belief in tatters now, the BJP is scrambling to control the damage.
The state government today posted revenue secretary Dipak Agarwal as the new divisional commissioner of Saharanpur amid a state-wide shuffle of 20 IAS officers, a PTI report said.
On May 24, the government had suspended Saharanpur senior superintendent of police Subhash Chandra Dubey and district magistrate N.P. Singh while transferring then divisional commissioner M.P Agarwal and deputy inspector-general of police J.K. Shahi.

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