On 21 May 2017, thousands of protestors took to the streets in Delhi, answering a call for a rally by Chandrasekhar, an advocate who is the leader of the Bhim Army—a two-year old grassroots-level organisation comprising members of the Dalit community in Uttar Pradesh. The Bhim Army had organised the rally to protest an attack by dominant-caste Thakurs on a Dalit neighbourhood, on 5 May, in Shabbirpur village of Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh. The attacking mob had set over 25 houses on fire, and severely injured over ten Dalit villagers.
Two days after the rally in Delhi, members of the Thakur community allegedly attacked Dalit residents again, near the same village. Over 20 Dalits were injured during the violence, and Ashish Meghraj, a 25-year-old Dalit resident of Saraswa village, was subsequently declared brought dead to Saharanpur district hospital. BS Sodhi, the chief medical officer at the hospital, told me that Meghraj had been shot and inflicted with a deep knife wound. By 7 pm that evening, a large number of Dalit residents from villages near Saharanpur city had gathered outside the hospital to protest the attack. Several ambulances began arriving, bringing young, injured Dalit men to the hospital.
Earlier that day, on 23 May, Mayawati, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo, visited the Dalit neighbourhood in Shabbirpur village and met the residents whose houses had been set on fire during the attack on 5 May. Mayawati also held a rally in the village, which members of the Dalit community from several villages in Saharanpur went to Shabbirpur that day to attend. While returning from the event, several attendees told me, they were attacked at various places between Shabbirpur and Saharanpur city.