Monday, August 15, 2016

Attack on Gujarat Dalits resumes after Una rally, called to "oppose" cow vigilantes who flogged four youths

An injured undergoing treatment in Rajula
By Our Representative
An atmosphere of unprecedented tension and fear prevails among the local Dalits, who participated in a major protest rally organized by the Ahmedabad-based Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti under the leadership of Jignesh Mevani. Those who had come to participate in the rally were violently attacked about 12 kilometres from Una, where the rally took place on August 15.
Despite massive police force deployed to guard the rally, people returning from Una were randomly attacked, especially near Santej village, situated about 12 kilometres from Una. The dominant caste people blocked the highway, attacking vehicles carrying Dalit protesters. During the attack, several persons were injured, two of them seriously. They were hospitalized for treatment in two towns, Rajula and Mahua.
At least two cars were said to have been torched torched and several others attacked near Santej, where a curfew remains in force. It is the same village from where the culprits who flogged the four Dalit youths, belonging to the Rohit (chamar) sub-caste in Una on July 11, come.
The rally in Una was held to protest the flogging by cow vigilantes suspecting the Dalit youths were involved in cow slaughter. Belonging to Mota Samadhiyala village, the Dalit boys were manually skinning dead cattle, a hierarchical caste occupation. The flogging incident went viral on social media, creating a huge uproar across the country.
The four Dalit boys who were attacked in Una
The attack on Dalits in the aftermath of the rally in Una forced many them to return back to the town to seek police protection. “At least four FIRs of attacks were filed. There were reports that tyres were lying burnt all over the national highway leading to Rajula and Mahuva. One of the cars carrying Dalits was fired upon”, said Mujahid Nafis, an activist, who was present at the police station.
The main leaders of the rally, particularly Mevani and his young colleague Pratik Sinha, had already left Una to by car when the news about the attack started pouring in. In a Facebook post, Mevani said, there was all round attack on Dalits, that police had failed to do its job, and that "everybody should maintain peace."
In a state of terror, the Dalit participants, amidst misgivings about absence of their leaders, wanted that the police arrest those involved in stone pelting – which had begun two days ahead of the rally – and they should be immediately provided with police protection, so that they could return home.
A Mevani supporter, Dr Jayesh Chavda, said on Facebook that Dalits should stop criticizing rally leaders for having deserted them. "We were very much there at Una police station trying to create all the police arrangements for those waiting to go back. Those saying that leaders had deserted them are doing disservice to the cause."
Gandhian activist, Nita Mahadev, who had gone to Una for attending the rally, said, the car in which she and other colleagues traveled was stopped, and after a few queries, was allowed to leave. "However, I suspect, the car which came immediately thereafter must have been attacked", she added.
Among those whose car was attacked included members of the Dalit family, four of whose boys were flogged in Una on July 11. The car in which they were traveling to their village, Mota Samadhiaya, was stopped in between, but the driver reversed it before it could be violently attacked.
Cops entering the bus to escort the Dalit family, others
Head of the family, Balubai Sarvaiya and others, who felt threatened, sought police protection to escort them back to their villages after violence broke out on the highway. Fearing attack on their house, they also insisted, they should be provided with permanent police post.
However, the police did not take any decision till orders came from the top to help them out late in the evening at around 7 pm. “The family members were supported by at least 500 others, seeking police protection to the Savraiya family”, Nafis said, adding, “Finally, under pressure, the police acted. The family was given protection and were sent back in a bus along with a few other Dalits.”
Meanwhile, some men and women belonging to the dominant Darbar community, involved in the arson, were arrested and locked up in the Una police station. “It is difficult to say how long will the cops, which seemed reluctant provide protection, would aid the victims. They are living in a state of fear and are uncertain about their future”, Nafis said. 

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