|Minister (extreme left) with the Dalit delegation|
In a development that is likely to be further exacerbate tension between protesting Dalits and the Gujarat government, a top state minister has declared that the state will not take back the crucial first information report (FIR) against 16 Dalits, books by the Amreli police under Section 302 (murder) of a cop on duty during a July 19 rally.
While those who have been booked assert (click HERE) that they were in no way involved in the death of the constable, Pankaj Amrelia, who allegedly died as he was hit by a stone while getting down from the police van, the minister told a Dalit group that the FIR “wouldn’t be taken back.”
However, he added, “There has been a compromise. There wouldn’t be any action against those whose names were put in the FIR”, an answer which did not satisfy the delegation.
On July 19, hundreds of Dalits took out a rally in Amreli, a major town of Saurashtra region, against the gruesome flogging of four Dalits in Una by cow vigilantes, an event which has triggered major protests across Gujarat and India.
After the FIR was lodged, Dalits regrouped in Amreli and took out another rally on August 8 with the participation of about 800 to protest against the “false” charge of murder in the FIR levelled against the 16 Dalits.
This was followed by 46 members of the families of the Dalits, against whom the FIR was lodged, to sit in protest in front of the Amreli district collectorate office for 31 days, till September 7. The sit-in ended after the district collector met the victims and assured them that “no action would be taken against them.”
However, as the Dalits’ demand for taking back the FIR was not met, the Dalit activists’ delegation led by well-known Dalit rights activist Rajesh Solanki called on social justice and empowerment minister Atmaram Parmar in Gandhinagar, the state capital.
“When I asked the minister if 90 per cent of the cases against the Patel agitators could be taken back, why couldn’t this one, which was totally false, couldn’t be taken back, he told me that I am whipping up the issue because of the forthcoming elections of the Gujarat state assembly”, Solanki told Counterview.
A local Dalit activist stationed in Amreli, attached with an Ahmedabad-based NGO Centre for Social Justice, said, “What is particularly perturbing is that, the police has even prepared a list of 49 other persons who were to be added in the FIR. These persons were to be added on the basis of the video footage of the rally on July 19.”
While this has so far not happened, there is a strong suspicion that the FIR would continue to remain as a Damocles’ sword on those named and others who have been “identified”.
Along with Solanki, those who met the minister on September 12 also included Kevalsinh Rathod, Piyush Sarvaiya, Jethabhai Chauhan, Kishor Sankhat and Harshvardhan Kataria. Earlier they made a similar representation to Ahmedabad Dalit MLA RM Patel, an ex-IAS bureaucrat, and MP Kirit Solanki.
The minister said, “You are not alone. Ten other groups have met me with a similar demand.” When told that those who had come were victims themselves, the minister, who saw the demands, replied, “I don’t see your demands here. You are preaching me.”