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Dalits again forcibly displaced in Gujarat: Families of a Porbandar village "coerced" to migrate out

By Our Representative
In a fresh incident of forced migration, Dalit families of Bhodadhar village of Ranavav taluka, Porbandar district, were coerced to leave their place of living, following upper caste persons destroying their houses. Bringing the incident to the notice of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who is also chairman of the SC-ST monitoring committee of the state government, senior activist of the Navsarjan Trust, Kantilal Parmar, has alleged the house were destroyed with the “malicious intention to force the Dalits out of the village.” He added, “The houses were destroyed with by using JCB machines, and the reason was -- the Dalits had refused to take back their police complaint under the anti-atrocities law.”
The Dalits’ houses were destroyed under the pretext that these houses were constructed on government land, and it was “part of the effort to remove encroachments on the common village land.” The collector made this clear in a letter by AM Gandhi, district collector, to the village panchayat, who warned that the anti-encroachment drive resolution, passed by the village panchayat in April 2013, would lead to “serious law and order problems” in the village. Hence, he asked the panchayat to stop the drive forthwith. Yet, apparently, the upper caste persons continued with their so-called anti-encroachment drive.
Interestingly, an official document, signed by the taluka development officer, contradicts the claim of the village panchayat resolution. The document, dated January 1, 2002, says that the Dalits were being handed over 20 sq metres land to construct the houses under the Indira Awas Yojna, for which the government would provide sufficient subsidy to each of the families. The document specifically says that the houses were being allowed to be built because the Dalits’ houses were destroyed during the earthquake on January 26, 2001.
Parmar, who was in Porbandar to make an on-the-spot persons of the assessment of the situation, said, “In all, 14 Dalits who lived in four houses were forced to move out of the village following destruction of the houses on December 18, 2013, fearing for their life. Saying that this was a “clear violation of different sections of the Indian constitution”, including Article 14 (equality before the law), Article 15 (prohibition of caste based discrimination), Article 21 (right to live as dignified citizens), the anti-atrocities Act and its different rules, and several sections of the Indian Penal Code, Parmar has put up several demands.
Calling it a “serious violation of human rights”, Parmar said, each of these families should be given 10 acres of land to cultivate and make a living, even as asking the CM to ensure that deputy sarpanch Lakha Rajshi Bheda and panchayat member Kamlesh Meraman be “removed from their post” for taking part in the atrocity. At the same time, he suggested, the state government must take steps against the local police officials who did nothing to ensure that the situation did not go out of hand. “The police officials must immediately act by registering a case against those responsible for the atrocity”, he added.
Making a general demand, Parmar said, “The Gujarat government must come up with a contingency plan to ensure that the Dalits are not forced to migrate from their village in the state’s rural areas.” In all, so far, Navsarjan Trust – which is a Dalit rights organization -- has recorded nearly 75 cases of forced migration of Dalits in Gujarat, for which it has held at least two hearings. Wanting the state government to immediately ensure that the internally displaced Dalits are “properly rehabilitated, Parmar said, “Those who commit atrocities of this kind should be severely dealt with, even if they are forced to out of their districts.”
While the Dalit families from Porbandar were forced to leave their village on December 30, 2013, this was the second incident of imposed migration in less than then days in Gujarat. On December 22, 2013, as many as seven families of Morzam village of Nakhatrana taluka, Kutch district, were forced to migrate out and began living in makeshift tents in Makhana village. “At that time also we had demanded from the state government to come up with a contingency plan for the Dalit internally displaced persons. However, the officials have not taken any heed to this”, Parmar has pointed out.

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