It just needed a bar of soap (about 125kg) to reveal the true face of the Yogi Adityanath government's social equality in Uttar Pradesh.
Or so it seems.
On Sunday (July 2), a group of 45 Dalit men and women from Gujarat travelling to Lucknow were detained and sent back from the railway station in Jhansi. Why? Because they had boarded the Sabarmati Express carrying a 125kg soap with an image of Gautam Buddha carved on it to gift to Yogi Adityanath.
They believe the Uttar Pradesh chief minister needed the giant bar to "cleanse his mentality towards Dalits".
Dalit villagers were given soaps And shampoo to clean themselves before meeting Yogi Adityanath. (Credit: PTI file photo)
The detained group was doing so apparently in response to an incident in May, where officials had gifted soap bars and shampoos to Musahar Dalit families in Kushi Nagar, a day before Adityanath was slated to visit them. A video had also surfaced on YouTube where a man claimed he and others like him were asked to clean up using soaps and shampoos before meeting the CM.
The Dalit activists from Gujarat were forcibly sent back from Jhansi because the Uttar Pradesh police "feared their presence in Lucknow could disturb peace".
Dalit group detained. Since when has giving soap to a CM led to a law and order problem?https://t.co/8pEkv1eyAD— Radhika Bordia (@radhikabordia) July 3, 2017
a bar of soap gets Yogi's police to act against dalits, wish they'd been this prompt when thakurs attacked dalits.https://t.co/rrCa2vnHeO— Hartosh Singh Bal (@HartoshSinghBal) July 3, 2017
Azam's buffaloes to Yogi's soaps to transfers of the balance...citizens left policeless, to b cookd with acid n to be had for lynch....— Sanjeev Shukla (@sanjeev1701) July 3, 2017
Baffling as it sounds, the government's imposition of strange rules didn't end there.
A day later on Monday (July 3), well-known Dalit activists Ram Kumar and retired IPS officer SR Darapuri, along with seven more associates, were arrested from a press conference at the UP Press Club.
According to this Hindustan Times report, 23 members of Bundelkhand Dalit Sena were also arrested for violating section 144 of IPC at other places in the city.
While all the activists were released later, they had reportedly gathered to condemn the police's refusal to allow the group from Gujarat enter the state.
According to police, the planned to march towards Adityanath's residence, something for which they did not have the permission.
The same report said Darapuri, who is attached with the Bundelkhand Dalit Sena, had taken permission to hold a seminar at the press club, but began a march to protest the forced deboarding and arrest of 45 Gujarat Dalit activists from a train at Jhansi.
The activists also planned to condemn incidents of violence against Dalits across the state, which have been reportedly on the rise, including the gang rape of two Dalit women in separate incidents in eastern UP last week. In May, one Dalit had died in Thakur-Dalit clashes in Saharnpur, western UP.
The police's action has been criticised as a "pre-planned move" in order to prevent the activists from holding their press conference against Dalit atrocities.
According to this report, a large posse of policemen was said to be waiting at the press club since morning and the activists were arrested even before their conference could begin.
According to Darapuri, the distribution of soaps and shampoo sachets to Dalits was nothing but “humiliation”. He said the Gujarat Dalit Sena, which wanted to “protest the humiliation” by gifting the 125kg soap, “were deprived of their democratic right to protest”.
UP police arrested Dalit activists during middle of the press conference on Dalit atrocities in Lucknow.— ASHUTOSH MISHRA (@ashu3page) July 3, 2017
It began with shampoo and soap, now we're at turning human rights activists into political prisoners https://t.co/1DFHzCx4T1— Shivam Vij (@DilliDurAst) July 3, 2017