July 04, 2017

India: Polics seize giant 125 kilo soap arrest Dalit activists who were to gift the soap to Yogi aditynath

The Telegraph, 4 July 2017

Giant soap stings Yogi

Giant soap stings Yogi
Our Special Correspondent


Lucknow, July 3: Yogi Adityanath's government pulled 45 Dalits from Gujarat off a train in Jhansi last evening to prevent them handing the chief minister a 125kg soap to "cleanse his mentality" towards the community.

The visitors meant to protest Uttar Pradesh officials' move of distributing soap, shampoo and perfume among a village's Dalits in May so they could "take a bath" and "smell good" ahead of a visit by Adityanath.

Today, as Dalit activist and retired IPS officer S.R. Darapuri called a news conference here to protest the Gujarat Dalits' detention, he was arrested with eight others on the charge of planning to march to Adityanath's bungalow to hold a dharna. The activists were released after four hours against personal bonds.

The 30 men and 15 women Dalits from Gujarat, marshalled by social organisations, were headed from Ahmedabad to Lucknow on the Sabarmati Express, carrying a 125kg soap shaped in the Buddha's image as a gift for Adityanath.

State and railway police offloaded all 45 at Jhansi station, seized the soap and lodged the detainees at the Matatila guesthouse. They were sent back to Ahmedabad on the Sabarmati Express this morning.

Government officials had handed two soaps, a sachet of shampoo and a bottle of perfume to each Musahar Dalit family at the Dinapatti locality of Mainpur-Kot village, Kushinagar district, a day before Adityanath's May 25 visit, media reports had said.

The Musahars, the poorest among the Dalits, had alleged they had been asked to "cleanse ourselves" and sprinkle perfume on their bodies before attending the chief minister's anti-encephalitis vaccination programme in their village.

The reports had led the Opposition to accuse Adityanath and his government of practising " a new untouchability" and demand an apology from the chief minister and a case against him for insulting the community.

Today, as Darapuri was about to address the media at the Lucknow Press Club, a large number of policemen entered the premises and took him and eight associates into custody.

"We are arresting them under the apprehension they would create a major law-and-order problem in the state capital," additional superintendent of police Vikas Chandra Tripathi said.

Among those arrested were P.C. Kureel, retired state government engineer, and Ramesh Chandra Dixit, retired Lucknow University professor.

While being taken to a police bus, Darapuri told reporters he wanted to condemn the detention of the Dalits from Gujarat.

"Adityanath is promoting untouchability in the state. The way the Dalits of Kushinagar were asked to take a bath was alarming. And now Adityanath is muzzling us," Darapuri, who had retired a decade ago as an inspector-general of police and is now a member of the Bundelkhand Dalit Sena, said. "We have every right to register our protest in a democratic manner. The state government is intentionally targeting Dalits: the Saharanpur clashes (with Thakurs) are proof of the chief minister's hatred for Dalits."

Tripathi, the officer, claimed the police had intelligence that Darapuri and his supporters would march to the chief minister's residence, 3km away, and sit on a dharna.