Protests by Dalits in Gujarat escalate; Opposition raises issue in Parliament

After the brutal assault on Dalit youngsters for skinning a cow in Una in the Gir-Somnath district of Gujarat, members of the community staged protests in the state even as it snowballed across Saurashtra on Tuesday. A policeman was killed in mob violence. State transport buses were targeted while three more members of the community allegedly attempted suicide.

"Head constable with the local crime branch Pankaj Amreli was injured in stone-pelting in Amreli town. He died during treatment at Rajkot hospital. Ten other persons including protesters and policemen have been injured," the police said. On 19 July, three youngsters tried to kill themselves by consuming poison in Batwa town in Junagadh district, the police said.

According to a Livemint report, the highways and state transport buses were blocked and a group of protesters dumped carcasses of cows on the streets, including at the collector's office in Surendranagar.

Roads were blocked from different parts of Saurashtra region across Junagadh, Jamnagar, Rajkot and Amreli districts since late Tuesday night. The protests also spread to Ahmedabad, where some Dalits were detained, according to the police. A bus was reportedly torched in Dhoraji town of Rajkot district.

Following this, the state road transport department on Tuesday suspended bus services from Porbandar and other parts as protesters continued to block roads.

 Protests by Dalits in Gujarat escalate; Opposition raises issue in Parliament

Police detain members of the Dalit community who staged protests in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. PTI.

Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel met family members of the victims at Mota Samaliyala village in Una, while Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi will visit Una on Thursday, 21 July.

"The scene of beating of Dalits will be disturbing to anyone who witnesses it. The beating, in the manner it took place, is not becoming of any civilised society. The state government has done everything possible, including arrest of the accused, and (facilitating) hospitalisation of the injured," Patel said after the meeting.

Even the Rajya Sabha, on Wednesday, wasn't spared from the uproar over the issue of rising Dalit atrocities in Gujarat. The Congress and BSP demanded answers from the government regarding the violent protests in the state.

The issue was raised as soon as the house met, and opposition members from different parties, including the BSP, Trinamool Congress, and Congress said they have submitted notices for a debate. The agitated opposition members trooped near the PJ Kurien's podium, shouting slogans against the government.

Following this, the house was first adjourned for 10 minutes. After reassembly, the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot said that the Gujarat government has taken action and a probe has been ordered with the report due in two months.

However, an unrelenting opposition continued to chant slogans, following which Kurien adjourned the house till 12 pm.

The Lok Sabha too discussed this issue. Congress' Mallikarjun Kharge requested Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to allow the discussion during the zero hour. Suresh Kodikunnil of the Congress said a "Dalit-mukt Bharat" is the RSS agenda. He added that the BJP-sponsored attack is going on in Gujarat and the state government has failed to protect the Dalits in the state.

At the first meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party in the ongoing Monsoon session of Parliament, Sonia Gandhi slammed the Narendra Modi government for snatching the rights of Dalits and adivasis, citing the Gujarat incident and called it "just one example of the social terror this government condones".

Three policemen have been suspended for dereliction of duty. "Till now, as many as 16 persons, who had allegedly thrashed Dalits, have been arrested while the process to arrest other accused is on," in-charge DGP PP Pandey said in a press release.

Anandiben Patel on Monday ordered a CID probe into the alleged assault on Dalit community members for  killing a cow at Una last week, and also announced to set up a special court for "speedy" trial of the case.

Patel also announced that the state government will bear all the medical expenses of the seven Dalit youths, who were injured in this incident and who are undergoing treatment at various government hospitals in Una, Junagadh and Rajkot.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is scheduled to visit Gujarat on Friday, 22 July, and his decision comes a day after Patel ordered a probe into it. This is Kejriwal's second visit to the state this month as AAP has been trying to make inroads in the state

On Monday, BSP leader Mayawati blamed the Centre for what she dubbed were "rising incidents of atrocities against the Dalits". She raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha saying, "Since the BJP-led government has come to power (at the Centre), the Dalits are being exploited at different levels. There are several incidents, and this reflects the narrow and casteist mindset of this party towards these groups."

Last week, four Dalit youths were severely beaten up and dragged on the road for nearly a kilometre in the Gir-Somnath district, Gujarat for allegedly possessing beef. The crime came to light after a video of the assault went viral on social media.

The youngsters, who hailed from Samadhiyala village and belonged to a community of leather traders, came to Una town to remove hide from the carcass of a cow. After reaching the bus stand, they were accosted by a group of men who then stripped the youngsters half-naked, tied them to an SUV and beat them up with iron pipes.

The assailants, who claimed to be self-styled cow protectors, then dragged the youngsters to a police station a kilometre away and handed them over to police.

After members of the Dalit community rallied at the police station, an FIR was registered against five men, including Pramodgiri Goswami, who claimed to be district president of Shiv Sena and an organisation working for cow protection.

With inputs from agencies


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Updated Date: Jul 20, 2016 13:55:28 IST