Saturday, August 20, 2016

A day ahead of Dalit rally, Gujarat govt forced to reopen case of death of three Dalit youths in Thangarh police firing

A rally poster
By Our Representative
The Gujarat government has finally bowed under pressure. Four years after three Dalit youths died in police firing in the industrial town of Thangarh in Surendranagar district, the state government has announced to reopen the case by setting up special investigation team (SIT) to probe the case, which the Gujarat crime branch recently closed by filing what is called “c-summary” report.
The announcement has come just a day ahead of the proposed rally on Sunday by Gujarat Dalit rights activists in the state capital, Gandhinagar, to demand reopening of the case following frantic negotiations with the organizers of the rally, led by Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust executive director Manjula Pradeep and senior activist Kirit Rathod.
The three Dalit youths died in police firing on a protest rally in Thangarh on September 22-23, 2012. The negotiations took place in the presence of social justice and empowerment minister Atmaram Parmar and minister of state for home Pradipsinh Jadeja.
Others present included former social justice and empowerment minister Ramanlal Vora, who will take over as the new speaker of the Gujarat state assembly, and Shambhuprasad Tundiya, BJP Rajya Sabha MP, considered among the Dalits as religious leader with a religious seat in Zanzarka, Saurashtra region.
The SIT would include Rajkot police commissioner Anupam Singh Gehlot, Surat deputy commissioner of police (zone-2) Parikshita Rathiod, and Porbandar district police chief Tarun Kumar Duggal.
Soon after the announcement, the families of the three Dalit youths, sitting on dharna in Gandhinagar, ended their fast, declaring they would end their dharna soon after the Sunday rally.
The state government also announced setting up a special designated court and appointment of a special public prosecutor to look into the police firing and the death of the three Dalits. On top of this, new Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani declared Rs 2 lakh each family as relief.
It is not known whether the government agreed to another key demand – to reveal the findings of the senior IAS bureaucrat Sanjay Prasad, who had submitted his inquiry report to the then Narendra Modi government on May 1, 2013. There is a strong view among activists that the report is not being made public as it is said to contain names of some senior cops behind the “unjustified” police firing.
Meanwhile, the organizers of the rally on July 21, Gujarat Anusuchit Jati Atyachar Sangharsh Samiti, have declared that the rally would continue, despite the agreement, as they wanted to apprise the Dalit participants about what happened during the negotiations.
Kirit Rathod, one of the negotiators with the state government, said, “While some of our main demands have been met, we have also put forward some other demands, which haven't been met. We wanted to share them with the participants in the rally.”
The demands include recognizing wide prevalence of untouchability in Gujarat's rural areas, as revealed in the Navsarjan Trust survey of 2010 titled “Understanding Untouchability”; using for Dalit welfare Rs 5,550 crore allegedly lying unspent with the state government; filling up 40,000 reserved category jobs for Dalits, tribals and other backward classes (OBCs) lying vacant; introducing reservation in the private sector; and setting up special courts in 11 of Gujarat districts, where anti-Dalit atrocities are particularly rampant.
This apart, the the Dalit body wants the state government to abolish the job of scavenging dead cattle handed over the social justice committees of village panchayats, calling it a “casteist rule”; and strict implementation of the manual scavenging prohibition Act, 2013.

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