Skip to main content

Gujarat Dalits: In 2006-13, 8,884 cases of violence; 18 killed every year. Minister says it's "not so bad"

By Darshan Desai*
These are no isolated cases in Gujarat…
>Gordhan Chauhan, 52, received a phone call at his Ahmedabad home in the afternoon of February 25 that his youngest brother Soma had fallen on the road and died of severe head injuries in their native village Kharad in Ahmedabad district’s Dhandhuka taluka (tehsil). On reaching there, along with relatives, he was aghast to find that Soma, somewhere in his mid-twenties, was murdered by an upper caste man and his goons.
Soma had fitted tiles at the residence of Jayubhai Chudasama, but he was not paid anything. He would not oblige despite several reminders and that day Soma Chauhan, who was a Dalit, again went to him demanding his remuneration. This enraged Chudasama, who spewed expletives at him with casteist insults and told him he has no right to ask for money from him.
As Soma answered back, Chudasama and his men roughed him up and dragged him on the street. When Soma fell down, Chudasama lifted a big stone and hit him. He fell unconscious and later died. Chudasama threatened his brother and relatives with the same fate if they reported the incident to the police.
>In September 2012, 27-year-old Lalji Sarvaiya of a Dalit family was burnt alive in Ankolali village of Junagadh district in Saurashtra region by village sarpanch and 11 others, accusing the youth of eloping with his upper caste daughter. Three Dalit families comprising 20 people ran away from the village following this incident, leaving all their belongings and vehicles behind. They have still not been able to return to their village and are living in Una town…
***
On an average, 18 Dalits were killed every year in Gujarat between 2006 and 2013 among 8,884 cases of violence against the community, and these are only those that are reported. What is more, according to a study by Navsarjan Trust that works among Dalits for over two decades, there are as many as 109 villages in the State where Dalits have to live under police protection after being attacked by members of the higher castes.
And here, too, the cops don’t stand guard near the colony of Dalits, which is usually at the end of the village, but among the houses of upper castes and enjoy their hospitality. They won’t touch a cup of tea or water offered by a Dalit.
“You might have heard these things to be common in States like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but it is no different here in Gujarat though it may be called a progressive and developed State,” says Kantilal Parmar, who works for Navsarjan.
According to Parmar, violence against the community is only one aspect, there is rampant social and economic discrimination against Dalits in the State -- only a fraction of such instances are reported. There as many as 77 villages in 14 districts where Dalits are facing social boycott.
They are not allowed to enter temples, prevented from drawing water from the village wells, they are not hired in labour works, driven away from flour mills, their children are denied admissions to village schools -- these are only a few examples. Scores of people in many villages have had to migrate to other places because of persecution by the higher castes, he adds.
The situation is worse in the water-scarce parched regions of Saurashtra where Dalits are denied access to the already depleting water sources. Take Choki village in Surendranagar district where the water standposts providing Narmada waters at the Dalitvas (colony of Dalits) were destroyed by upper castes soon after they were installed in 2009. About 40 per cent of the 4,000 population of this village comprises the ‘lower castes.’ There is an old well in the Dalitvas but the water in it is contaminated.
“Just change the name of the place and the situation is the same in hundreds of villages in Saurashtra, especially in severely water-starved Surendranagar, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Amreli districts. It gets worse for Dalits since their houses are generally in low-lying areas where water supply is better than at places inhabited by upper caste members, who choke the pipelines leading to Dalitvas,” says a senior Dalit officer from the Gujarat Administrative Service cadre, pleading anonymity.
The stock reply of the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board officials to the villagers complaining about this is that while they would look into their grievances, the responsibility of water distribution lies with the village panchayats. “And the panchayats are controlled by the upper castes,” quips the official.

Minister's reaction

Despite rampant discrimination, the Gujarat Government’s official position is that the overall situation is not as bad as in other states. Says Social Justice and Welfare Minister Ramanlal Vora, the crimes against Scheduled Castes or Dalits are much less than the national average. “The number of crimes per one lakh population is 1.7 per cent in Gujarat as against the national rate of 2.8 per cent,” he says.
The State Government, according to him, is making all out effort to get justice for the Dalits besides their rehabilitation. His ministry says there is a vigilance and monitoring committee for Dalit issues right from the taluka level to the State level. While the taluka and district level committees meet every three months, the one at the State level chaired by the Chief Minister has its meetings twice a year.
The fact, however, is that the State-level vigilance committee has not met even once since September 2013.
---
*Senior journalist based in Ahmedabad

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

BSF should take full responsibility for death of 4 kids in West Bengal: Rights defender

By Kirity Roy*  One is deeply disturbed and appalled by the callous trench-digging by BSF in Chetnagachh village under Daspara Gram Panchayat, Chopra, North Dinajpur District, West Bengal that has claimed the lives of four children. Along the entire stretch of Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal instead of guarding the actual border delineated by the international border pillars, BSF builds fences and digs trenches well inside the Indian territory, passing through villages and encroaching on private lands, often without due clearance or consent. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

Social justice day amidst 'official neglect' of salt pan workers in Little Rann of Kutch

By Prerana Pamkar*  In India’s struggle for Independence, the Salt Satyagraha stands as a landmark movement and a powerful symbol of nonviolent resistance. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, countless determined citizens walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat which witnessed the power of the common Indian during the freedom struggle is now in the throes of another significant movement: this time it is seeking to free salt pan workers from untenable working conditions in the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK).

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Jallianwala massacre: Why Indian govt hasn't ever officially sought apology from UK

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller*  The king of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander, apologized in July 2023 for his ancestors’ role in the colonial slave trade. He is not alone in expressing remorse for past wrongs. In 2021, France returned 26 works of art seized by French colonial soldiers in Africa – the largest restitution France has ever made to a former colony. In the same year, Germany officially apologized for its 1904-08 genocide of the Herero and Nama people of Namibia and agreed to fund reconstruction and development projects in Namibia. .