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PUCL throws its weight behind Gujarat Patidars, asks NHRC to independently acquire into "police atrocities"

By Our Representative
In a move without precedence, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Gujarat, has knocked at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) doors to inquire into “police atrocities” on the Patidar agitators following their powerful rally in Ahmedabad on August 25. The move is significant, as many Gujarat activists and human rights defenders alike had till now considered Patidars – or Patels – as a “wealthy” and "exploitative" caste.
Many activists had taken strong exception to the strong Patidar demand for reservation calling it highly unreasonable, with some blaming them for the cops’ attack, considering it an "OBC retaliation" against the Patidar's effort to intrude into their pie.
Calling the attack on the agitators after the rally “a case of violation of accountability principles of the state machinery”, PUCL general secretary Gautam Thaker, in a signed letter to the NHRC chairman, has simultaneously demanded inquiry into the custodial death of Shwetang Patel. The matter is already before NHRC, which has sought Gujarat government response.
“At least for 24 hours the police force in Gujarat at hundreds of places ran riot and people suffered physically and financially”, PUCL said, adding, “At many places in Gujarat, including Ahmedabad, police personnel ran after people gathered at open places beating them randomly and brutally, broke into their houses, beating them without any provocation, ransacking their houses.”
The powerful civil rights organization which is well spread out throughout India and Gujarat, PUCL said, “The police also smashed (Patidars') vehicles parked outside their houses and beat people by asking their castes and picked them to police stations and beat them brutally in the police custody."
Pointing towards seven deaths “due to police atrocities”, with “scores of people getting injured, whose number is unknown”, PUCL said, “The custodial death of Shwetang Patel, in his late twenties, in Bapunagar, Ahmedabad evoked a strong indignation among the people of Gujarat.”
PUCL noted, “The septuagenarian MLA Naranbhai Patel of Unjha in North Gujarat from the ruling party also went on dharna against the police atrocities meted out in his electoral constituency.”
“At many places during the hiccups people were also threatened orally by the police force that if they demanded reservation they will face the same fate in future”, the organization, founded by Jay Prakash Narain, added.
Asking NHRC to “take up an independent inquiry into police excesses /atrocity”, as the inquiry entrusted to CID crime in Gujarat “will not bring out facts”, PUCL said, it fears intimidation of the “affected citizens and their families” by deleting “evidences like video footage will be deleted or perished.”
PUCL alleged, “The police has already started the process to save their skin. Shwetang’s mother has raised many questions about the FIR registered. The affected persons are living under fear due to threats by police as we have understood from media reports. This being gross violation of human rights.”
“Looking to the fear and terror situation prevailing in Gujarat nobody is willing to come out in open to depose against the police atrocities and in order to find out the facts the CID crime has instituted a inquiry”, the PUCL says.
“People are so scared that nobody is coming out to give factual eye-witness version and hence we request you to depute NHRC’s own team to thoroughly and impartially investigate in the matter so that truth is revealed”, it adds.

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