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Saharanpur violence: Thousands gather at Jantar Mantar for Dalit protest called by 'Bhim Army'

Thousands of Dalit rights activists, led by the Bhim Army, on Sunday protested at the Jantar Mantar in the national capital to raise their voice against the recent incident of caste-based violence in Uttar Pradesh's Saharanpur city.

Around 5,000 people participated in the protest despite being denied permission by the Delhi Police.

The protesters, led by a newly formed Dalit outfit, the Bhim Army, and comprising youths from Saharanpur district and nearby towns, were joined at the Jantar Mantar by members of the All India Students Association, the student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).

"We demand cancellation of charges pressed against Chandrashekhar Azad (Bhim Army's founder member) and strong action against so-called upper caste men who rioted and ransacked Dalit villagers' property," AISA National President Sucheta De told IANS.

The protesters demanded that cases be registered against those who had perpetrated violence against Dalits on May 9. They also demanded that the affected families be awarded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh.

Bhim Army founder Chandrashekhar, who is accused of sharing an objectionable video on social media and disrupting the communal harmony in Saharanpur, was also present at the event.

The activists also demanded that the FIRs lodged against Chandrashekhar and other Dalit activists be cancelled and a judicial probe be initiated into the incidents of clashes at Saharanpur.

Clashes had erupted on May 5 in Saharanpur's Shabbirpur village after some of its Dalit residents refused to allow a procession by Thakurs (upper caste men) to mark the birth anniversary of Rajput king Maharana Pratap.

One person was killed and 16 others injured in the clash.

Members of the Dalit community had then tried to hold a 'mahapanchayat' on May 9 in Gandhi Park in the city to demand compensation and relief to those affected in the May 5 clashes but their request was turned down by the administration, following which they took to the streets.

In the violence that followed, Dalit protesters allegedly set fire to a police post and over a dozen two-wheelers in several areas of the city.

Alleging police excesses on members of a Dalit outfit, nearly 180 families from the community in Saharanpur announced that they have embraced Buddhism by immersing idols of Hindu gods and goddesses into a river.

The families from Rupdi, Egri and Kapurpur villages on Thursday also threatened that more Dalits would convert to Buddhism if the police did not release the members of the community arrested during the recent caste-related violence in the district.

They had alleged that the police was intentionally targeting the community and Azad.