Video Editor: Mohd Irshad
Tension gripped Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh after 26-year-old Sachin Walia, the brother of Bhim Army’s regional head Kamal Walia, was shot dead on Maharana Pratap Jayanti on Wednesday, 9 May. The police have booked four men upon the victim’s mother’s written complaint, but are yet to frame charges against the accused.
The police have also hinted, without confirmation, that this may be a case of accidental death.
Walia was shot on Malipur road in Ramnagar around 10 am, following which he was rushed to the local district hospital, but succumbed to his injuries later. Hundreds of people gathered to mourn his death, even as crowds continued to swell through the day.
‘Administration Responsible for His Death’
Bhim Army representatives told The Quint that they had repeatedly written to authorities asking them not to give permission to the Rajputs to carry out a procession in the area, but their request fell on deaf ears. Robin Gautam, a member of the Bhim Army, said they were skeptical of a celebration as they felt Rajputs would “behave like goons,” which could result in an untoward incident.
“We wrote to the district magistrate and senior superintendent of police (SSP) and insisted that permission not be given. I will not blame the Rajputs for Walia’s death; this is the fault of the administration who gave permission for carrying out a rally in a conflicted area. They are to blame,” a weeping Gautam said.
Around a year ago in May 2017, a similar dispute had sprouted in Shabbirpur village where Dalits had objected to Rajputs carrying out a procession on Maharana Pratap Jayanti. The tension snowballed into clashes. One Dalit man died, 55 Dalit homes were burnt, and several others were injured.
When The Quint asked Superintendent of Police (city) Prabap Pratap Singh why permission for the Rajput rally was granted, he said, “This event is being organised since the last three to four years. It is an annual event and it had to be conducted. Hence, the permission was granted.”
While clarifying that no violent clashes had taken place between the two communities, the police are clueless how Walia was killed.
Was it Accidental Shooting?
Speaking to The Quint, Babloo Kumar, Saharanpur Senior Superintendent of Police, said:
There is no clarity right now on who attacked Sachin Walia. Security was deployed in the area where the incident took place. But the accused remain unidentified. Investigations are currently under way. No violent clashes took place.
Prabal Pratap Singh expressed surprise over the incident too. “There was strong security presence across Saharanpur district since morning. There were checkpoints where people were being frisked to ensure no one carried weapons or batons. There was a picket right where the incident took place. I am yet to understand myself how this happened,” he said, adding that they are investigating the matter.
Reacting to media reports of Walia having killed himself accidentally while he was cleaning a firearm, Babloo Kumar told The Quint: “No, I didn’t say that. The investigation is under way and currently there isn’t conclusive proof or evidence to say that it was an accidental death. Once the investigation is complete, everyone will know.”
However, off the record, police officials hinted that the incident could be an accident case.
Moments Before Walia Was Shot Dead
Robin Gautam, who said he was one of the last persons to see Walia alive moments before his death, told The Quint the he and Walia were having tea with two intelligence officials at his home in Ramnagar.
These officials were there to monitor the security arrangement for Maharana Pratap Jayanti. As they began to leave, Walia accompanied them to the gate. This is where he was shot. I don’t know if there was an altercation outside or not, but I know my younger brother didn’t come back alive. He was shot in the face.Robin Gautam, Bhim Army member
A crowd of at least 400 people gathered outside the district hospital where Walia was rushed to, and raised slogans demanding that perpetrators behind the crime be hanged. The family has submitted a written complaint to the police.
UP Govt Must Investigate Whether It Was a Hate Crime: Amnesty
Reacting to Walia’s death, Amnesty International India called for the Uttar Pradesh government to investigate whether it was an instance of hate crime.
The Uttar Pradesh government must investigate whether Sachin Walia was killed in a hate crime. Around this time last year, Dalits in Saharanpur district faced several caste-based attacks whose perpetrators are yet to be punished. The Uttar Pradesh authorities must ensure that similar attacks don’t occur again, and end impunity for hate crimes against Dalits in the state.Asmita Basu, programmes director, Amnesty International India
(With inputs from PTI)
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