Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Gujarat Dalits refused permission by upper caste to use cremation ground in a village off Godhra

Cremation with main gates remaining closed for Dalits 
By Our Representative
Dalits of a village in Godhra taluka of Gujarat are up in arm against a gruesome incident in which members of the dominant caste refused to allow them to cremate Nanabhai Kohyabhai Vankar, who died at the age of 75 on September 19, 2014 morning. Pointing out that this has not happened for the first time, Manubhai Rohit, who along with a group of Dalit activists represented to district collector, Panchmahals district, P Bharathi, said, “The cremation ground was constructed from the grant of Prabhatsinh Chauhan, who represented the area in the Gujarat state assembly.”
Rohit said, “The relatives of the deceased had no other option but to cremate Vankar’s body outside the closed gate of the cremation ground.” Incidents like this happen not just in the rural areas around Godhra, which are relatively a backward, but also in prosperous Central Gujarat. Social activist Ashok Rathod of Navsarjan Trust was told in an RTI reply last year that as many as 40 villages of eight talukas of Kheda district had separate cremation facility for Dalits, which is a clear official recognition the prevalence of untouchability in the rural areas.
The representation, forwarded by the Human Rights Committee, Godhra, to the district collector, followed a well-attended rally in which Dalits from village Mehlol and neigbouring rural areas participated. It said, “It is disturbing that, even decades after Independence, Dalits are subjected to untouchability even after they are dead. This is a serious violation of our basic human rights, and you are requested to take legal action against those responsible for this.”
The representation said, “When the family members of the deceased reached the cremation ground with the body, the person who manages it, Nimesh Gordhanbhai Patel, told them that they could not cremate Vankar’s body within its premises. This happened when they approached Patel for the keys of the main gates of the cremation ground, which were closed. Patel not only refused to part with the keys, he misbehaved with those who met him with a plea to open the gates. Refusal to allow last rites of the deceased should be treated as a serious offense.”
Following the incident, the Dalits approached the Vejalpur police station, under whose jurisdiction
Dalit rally in Godhra before handing over representation
the cremation ground comes, and registered a case against Patel under section 504 of the Indian penal code, seeking criminal proceedings against those who resort to “intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace”, and section 31(1)14 of the anti-atrocities Act, which provisions action against those who resort to untouchability practices.
The demands put forward in the written representation to the district collector include immediate arrest of Patel, who “insulted” members of the Dalit community by refusing to open the main doors of the cremation ground, and his personal intervention to ensure Dalits are allowed to use as equals not only the cremation ground but also other public buildings.

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