Monday, May 12, 2014

Dalits of a village in Ahmedabad district face social boycott for demanding physical possession of plot they own

Dalit representatives with activist Kirit Rathod (right)
at district collector's office
By Our Representative
In yet another glaring instance of social boycott in Gujarat, around 30 Dalits – men, women and children – currently living in makeshift shanties in Gitapur village in Detroj taluka of Ahmedabad district, are being denied all basic facilities, including water, electricity or needs of daily use in the village by members of the dominant caste, Patels. Situated just about 80 km from Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s business capital, Gitapur Dalits are facing the predicament because they allegedly dared demand physical possession of the plots of land they were entitled to for the last over two years now.
A representation to district collector, Ahmedabad, Roopwant Singh, led by NGOs Navsarjan Trust and Manav Adhikar Simiti, Ahmedabad, has said it all began after the village panchayat of Bhagapura, adjacent to Gitapur, passed a resolution on April 2, 2012, allocating a plot of land, Survey No 244, to these Dalits in order to build their own houses under one of the rural housing plot-cum-schemes. While the Dalits then lived in Bhagapura, the plot of land they were offered was on its border, inside the Gitapura village area, in accordance with a government order.
“Finding that Gitapur village panchayat was not ready to part with the piece of land to the Dalits, and its high caste Patels were seeking to use force to ensure that the Dalits do not live there, on August 25, 2013, the Dalits began their protest. They first sat on dharna outside the Detroj taluka office to demand land”, the representation said, adding, “They stopped the dharna following a written assurance from the taluka development officer and other officials. They were even formally given the plot, even the layout plan of the houses was approved.”
“Despite this”, the representation said, “The Dalits were physically not handed over the land. This led them to frequently find out what was happening. They kept asking the village panchayat to hand over the plot. Their uent pleas made Patels angry. On December 14, 2013, they physically attacked one of the Dalits, Narshibhai Maganbhai Parmar, who was seriously injured. Their huts were set on fire. Ever since then, the Dalits are living in a state of fear. Women are force to walk two kilometers to fetch a pail of water. Hurdles are created towards children going to school.”
The representation was made under the leadership of the Navsarjan Trust's senior activist Kirit Rathod. The demands of the representation are:
  • Plots be immediately handed over to the Dalits in Gitapura
  • Basic necessities of life, including water and power, should be immediately supplied to the place where they are living in makeshift shanties
  • Gutter connections should be extended to the houses immediately
  • Urgent efforts should be made to stop social boycott of the Dalits
  • Dalits should be ensured supply of goods of daily necessities
  • Dalits should be provided with a separate space for crematorium

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