Monday, September 08, 2014

Gujarat Dalit families forcibly displaced, migrate out of village following threats of economic boycott

Sanjay, brother of the victim, looks at the standing crop
destroyed by upper caste Rajputs
By Our Representative
About 17 Dalit families belonging to Timba village of Vadhvan taluka of Surendranagar district in Gujarat have been forced to migrate to several villages neighbouring areas following threats from upper caste Rajputs, accused in fatal attack on Tokarbhai Jagabhai Jitiya, 32, on April 9, 2014. Talking with newspersons, family members of the victim said, “The Dalit families were forced to migrate after they were told they that would suffer in case they supported our effort to bring to book the accused. While six of the accused involved in the murder have been arrested, the main accused, Kanbha Nadoda, is still at large, thanks to his political support from the ruling BJP.”
Appearing before media at Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust’s Ahmedabad office, Sanjay Jagabhai Jatiya said, “While three of our families still live in the village, because we have to look after our 12-acre farm, we continue to be threatened from the family members of the accused, who also control the village panchayat. A few days back, they let loose cattle on our field, and the standing bajri crop was all destroyed. Earlier, they burnt the standing wheat crop on the field, apart from damaging the water pipeline used for irrigation purpose. They have been constantly pressuring us to take back our cases. The estimated cost of damage to the crop is Rs 1.45 lakh.”
Giving details of how the attack on Dalits in the village began, Sanjay, who is the younger of the deceased Tokarbhai, 32, said, “On April 9, 2014, at around 8:30 am, my brother Tokarbhai and his two children were buying snacks at a shop. Suddenly nine persons belonging to the Rajput community attacked him under the leadership of Kanbha Nadoda. He was badly beaten up with iron rods and wooden sticks. The victim cried for help, and so did so his sister Kailashben, and wife, Meenaben. All this happened in broad daylight in front of many villagers. I rushed to the place of incident to rescue him. Kanbha and a supporter took out pistol and threatened us to leave.”
The irrigation pipeline destroyed by accused
Sanjay said, “The accused kept on shouting that they would kill us. Meanwhile, my brother became unconscious, and they left finding this would put them in trouble. He was taken in a 108 emergency ambulance to Surendranagar Civil Hospital. On April 20, 2014, he was shifted to the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, where he succumbed to the injuries on April 13, 2014.” He added, “My brother was attacked in order to punish our father, who had signed up as a witness in a police complaint regarding failure to pay up full amount on selling a house owned by a Dalit to a Rajput, belonging the accused persons’ family. Perhaps the Rajput attackers thought that our father had acted on my brother’s advice.”
Putting up the demand for “immediate arrest” of the main accused, Navsarjan Trust director Manjula Pradeep, who introduced Sanjay to mediapersons, said, “Although the Superintendent of Police, Surendranagar district had ensured the victims in writing that the arrest would happen within a week of the incident, the main accused remains at large. Worse, things have become even more problematic for the Dalits to live in the village. While those who worked as landless workers have been forced to migrate to neighbouring villages, as they were refused work on Rajput fields, the victim’s family, staying back to take care of the farm, is under constant threat.”
Tokarbhai, the victim
Pradeep said, “The effort is to economically ostricise the victim’s family members continues. Their standing crop was destroyed. Despite written representation to the district collector and the SP, Surendranagar district, the authorities have taken no action. Until the main accused is not arrested, the investigation cannot be said to have been completed, and there would be delay in the trial. The investigating officer, it may be noted, has not invoked the prevention of atrocities Act in the FIR. Further, the police protection, of two constables round the clock, is not sufficient to protect the family. While the bail application of three of the accused was cancelled by the Surendranagar district court, they have pleaded for bail in the Gujarat High Court. The state government should strongly argue out in the High Court and press for cancellation the bail plea.”
Pradeep insisted, “We feel that Dalit families – in all 73 persons – who have been forced to migrate from the village – should be declared internally displaced persons by the state government, and everything should be done to support and rehabilitate them. Full compensation should be paid to the victims’ family for destruction of the crop, and FIR should be registered against those responsible under the anti-atrocities law. Compensation should be to the tune of Rs 1.45 lakh. The government should provide job to the one of the dependents of victim’s family members, especially the widow.”

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