Thursday, August 18, 2016

More Gujarat Dalit protests planned in next fortnight, starting Aug 21 rally in Gandhinagar on Thangarh police firing

Thangarh victims' families on dharna in Gandhinagar
By Our Representative
Following the successful completion of the Dalit mega rally on August 15, held to protest against the July 11 flogging of four youths belonging to the Rohit (chamar) sub-caste in Una for skinning dead cattle, Gujarat Dalits have planned at least half-a-dozen major protests across the state over the next one fortnight, starting with August 21 in the state capital, Gandhinagar.
Organized by the Anusuchit Jati Agyachar Sangharsh Samiti (Scheduled Castes Committee against Atrocities), the Gandhinagar rally's main focus is proposed is to be the Gujarat government's decision to “close” the cases of the death of three Dalit youths in police firing in September 2012 in Thangadh town of Surendranagar district.
Already, what is called a “c-summary” report has been filed by the police, saying that the firing – which took place for two days, September 22-23, 2012 – took place “accidentally” during a scuffle of the protesting Dalits with the cops.
The rally acquires significance, as the family of the Dalit youths who died in the police firing are have gone on a protest sit-in (dharna) over the last one fortnight demanding justice. Already, senior Gujarat-based Dalit activists of Navsarjan Trust have represented to the Gujarat government to reopen the case and hand it over to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
In a recent letter to the Gujarat chief minister, senior activist Kirit Rathod simultaneously wanted the 2013 inquiry report on the police firing by IAS official Sanjay Prasad to be made public, as it allegedly reveals what led to the death the three Dalit youths.
The rally is being held against the backdrop of efforts by senior ministers under the new Gujarat government of chief minister Vijay Rupani asking the protesters to withdraw their demands, going so far as to call the families sitting on dharna in Gandhinagar late in the night for a “reasonable settlement.”
Called by social justice and empowerment minister Atmaram Parmar at his residence for a compromise formula, the families, however, refused to budge.
The spot where the families are sitting on dharna has been termed “Satyagraha Chhavni”, a spot holding protests in order to demand justice. After attending the Una rally, activists from across India visited this spot meet the protesting families.
One of them, Kavita Krishnan, leader the All-India Progressive Women's Association, after visiting the spot, said, “Three boys – Pankaj Sumra, 17, Mehul Rathod, 16, and Prakash Parmar, 27 – were part of a protest demonstration at the thana against violence by the dominant caste, when police fired on them and killed them.”
Krishnan insisted, “The post mortem showed bullets to the chest – clearly firing wasn't intended to disperse the crowd but to kill for daring to challenge casteist violence. A One Man Inquiry Commission was appointed by then chief minister Narendra Modi in 2012 which submitted its report to the Govt on May 1, 2013.”
But Krishnan regretted, the government “is yet to make the report public or do anything to punish the policemen who killed the three. The struggle for justice goes on.” Other activists who visited with her included Manoj Manzil, Abhishek Parmar and Tushar Parmar, “expressing” solidarity.
Another protest is being organized by Rajesh Solanki, a radical activist of the Dalit Hak Rakshak Manch (DHRM). Starting on August 29, again focusing on Thangadh, it would begin in Junagadh, and it would end on September 2 in Ahmedabad. It would pass through Parabdi, Dhoraji, Jetpur, Virpur, Gondal, Rajkot, Tankara, Morbi, Surendranagar, Limdi, Bagodra, Dholka and Bavla.
Yet another major protest would be organized by Dalit activists from Saurashtra in Rajkot on August 31. Already, preparatory meetings are being held at different spots in several of the towns of the region for holding the rally, in which, among others, top Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan, founder, Navsarjan Trust, will speak.

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