Una Dalit flogging case: Hearing on a daily basis from July 29

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: July 4, 2019
The victims of the atrocious Una Dalit flogging case, that had occured almost three years back, yet await justice. Now, in what could be a major relief, the District and Sessions court of Veraval on Monday agreed to expedite the trial and hear it on a daily basis, starting July 29.

Una Dalit flogging

As reported in The Indian Express, Vashram Sarvaiya, one of the eight Dalit victims, had filed a plea on May 31, requesting for a speedy trial. Sarvaiya had submitted that much time had elapsed since he, his family members and relatives were assaulted by cow vigilantes, but they were still awaiting justice. 

What happened on July 11, 2016?
On July 11, 2016, Vashram Sarvaiya along with his brother Ramesh, cousin Ashok and relative Bechar were skinning a cow carcass in Mota Samathiyala village, Una of Gir Somnath district in Gujarat. While they were doing so, a group of self-appointed ‘gau rakshaks’ (cow vigilantes) attacked the four of them on the allegations that they were skinning a slaughtered cow. 

When Vashram’s parents, Balu and Kunvar, along with two other relatives, tried to intervene and stop the attackers, they were assaulted as well. The accused then allegedly kidnapped the four members of the Sarvaiya family, who were skinning the dead cow, and then took them to Una. There they were allegedly tied to a car and then flogged after which they were paraded in the town and finally abandoned outside the Una police station. The assaulters shot the entire incident and posted it on Facebook, leading to outrage across the nation. 

Judicial journey till date:
After nationwide protests, the investigation was transferred to the  Gujarat CID crime branch which concluded that the victims had skinned a cow which had been killed by lions in Bediya village. Subsequently, CID arrested 43 accused  including then Una police inspector Nirmalsinh Zhala, police sub-inspector Narendra Pandey, assistant sub-inspector Kanchanben Parmar who was in-charge of Sanakhada outpost under which Mota Samadhiyala village falls and head constable Kanji Chudasama for alleged dereliction of duty and helping other accused by forging documents.

Later, the police filed a charge sheet against 34 accused in the Una court and against three juvenile accused in the juvenile justice board in Junagadh. The accused have been charged with attempt-to-murder, subjecting Scheduled Caste members to atrocities among others.

Notably, in April 2017, a writ petition was filed in the Gujarat High Court (HC) by Kanti Chavda, pleading for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) enquiry into the Una case and  to investigate if there was a common conspiracy among the fanatical organisations and the Una-based NGO Shri Sanathan Charitable Trust or other organizations working across India. Surprisingly, the HC rejected the plea on the grounds that the Una Dalit flogging case wasn’t the “rarest of rare” and that the CID probe was “satisfactory.”

The victims along with other Dalit groups have been demanding a speedy trial in the case and have expressed their apprehensions over the delay, despite the The Scheduled Castes and The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989 clearly stating the need for a “day-to-day” hearing under section 14(3).  

Dalit protests:
The Una Dalit flogging incident had led to nationwide protests with the Gujarat state witnessing intense outcry. The video of the attack, that went viral on social media, sparked widespread protests in the state which transformed into a movement for Dalit rights. On July 31, 2016 at a Dalit Maha Sammelan in Ahmedabad, thousands of Dalits pledged to stop picking up carcasses and give up occupations like manual scavenging.

It also led to the formation of the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti to seek justice for the victims of the brutal attack in Una. Shortly after, on August 5, 2016 the Dalit Asmita Yatra was flagged off from Ahmedabad and travelled over 400 kilometres through different villages of Gujarat. Pledges were taken in village after village to shun the traditional caste-based occupations of manual scavenging, cleaning sewer lines and skinning or disposing of dead cattle. The ten-day yatra culminated in the Azadi Kooch at Una on Independence Day. Many Dalits had also attempted suicide in various protests. A police constable was allegedly killed during a Dalit protest in Amreli which had turned violent.

The upsurge among Gujarat's Dalits even resulted in the resignation of the then chief minister, Anandiben Patel. In a strange move, the then chief minister 'offered to resign' on August 1, through a facebook post on August 1, 2016.

The Una protest and Dalit Asmita Rally are a historic response to attacks on Dalit lives, dignity and livelihood. The recent court order gives a ray of hope that justice will be done, despite the past delay. 

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