‘Pratirodh’: Dalits from 10 Gujarat Villages unite to combat Caste Atrocities

First time in the history of Dalit protest in Gujarat, Dalits from as many as ten villages have formed a common platform, ‘Pratirodh’, and launched a determined fight against caste based atrocities including rape, murder, abduction and forced migration. They all are on indefinite hunger strike for justice since October 10.

Dalits in Gujarat
Jethiben Rathod (right)

On 11 September 2016 they met MLA Rajanikant Patel, MP Kirit Solanki and on 12 September they met the state's social justice and empowerment minister Atmaram Parmar and his parliamentary secretary Jethabhai Solanki and gave them their memorandum of demands and gave a deadline of 24 September 2016 to fulfil their demands.

As the protest was unheeded, Dalits started a Dharana at Sector-6, Gandhinagar. Here, they were joined by five more families who were also demanding justice. Thus, Dalits from total ten villageds including Vadli, Samter, Akolali, Ningala, Karadi, Ola, Sarvai, Bhada, Dharesvar, Savarkundala have joined the protest. Since October 10, the protesting Dalits resorted to a hunger strike. While 8 of them are continuing the fast, six have been admitted in hospital.  

The details of each village and victims are as follows:
1. 22 members of a scheduled caste family were compelled to migrate from their village Vadli (Tehsil Rajula, Dist. Amreli) and they have been living in the premises of Amreli collector office since nine months. Lalji Babariya’s 17 years old daughter was abducted from her own home and raped. Police after delay of 34 hours got the girl medically examined and the medical examination report gave clean cheat to the accused, who is now on bail. The frightened family left their village. Still today they have not been given the allotted plot of land. Today one member of the family, Dhanjibhai Babariya has started fast at Gandhinagar.

2. In the year 2012, one youth Laljibhai Sarvaiya of village Ankolali (Taheshil Una, Dist. Gir Somnath) was burnt in his own home by Caste Hindus. They poured kerosene on him from the roof and killed him brutally. The entire family of 14 members migrated from the village and took a rented house in Una. The family has not been given promised land and ultimately one member of the family, Piyush has joined the victims at Gandhinagar.

3. In the year 2012, Bhimabhai Chauhan of Samter (Taheshil Una, Dist. Gir Somnath) was murdered by Savarnas of his village. They received demand draft of Rs. Five lakh from Ambedkar Foundation, New Delhi. But the DD was in favour of Bhimabhai’s father who had already been died before 10 years. Even after letters of Collector from Gir Somnath to rectify the mistake, Bhimabhai’s heirs have not been given the said amount. Now Jethabhai, son of Bhimabhai joined this struggle.

4. Ramesh Govindbhai Vanjara of Ningala village (Taheshil Khamba, Dist. Amreli) was brutally lynched in the year 2014. Three daughters of Ramesh are now orphan because his wife had also been died before few years. And the most tragic thing is that four of their family have been jailed as police have falsely implicated them in death of a police cop during a rally to protest Una flogging. So mother Dhaniben and paralytic father of Ramesh joined this struggle for justice. Govindbhai and Dhaniben both are critical and they have been hospitalised. Govinbhai has been shifted to civil hospital, Ahmedabad.

5. A dalit army man of Karadi village (Taheshil Sayla, Dist. Surendra Nagar) was shot dead in the year 2010. The accused have been acquitted by the lower court. The prosecution done by local police was shoddy and biased. Mother and father of this slain army man demanding CBI inquiry has now started Dharana with other victims in Gandhinagar. Mother Jethiben has been admitted in civil hospital, Gandhinagar as her condition became critical after joining indefinite hunger strike.

6. 17 years old Mitesh was thrown from second floor in Vatava area of Ahemedabad city. Mitesh died on the spot and his family had to migrate from their own home. Demanding status of “Migrant” (Hijarati), the entire family has sit on Dharana with other victims.

7. Shamatbhai (TaheshilJafrabad Dist. Amreli) was attacked and grievously injured in the year 2013. He had to migrate from his village and settled at another village of Gir district. Fighting for the status of “migrant”(Hijarati) Shamatbhai joined with the victims in Gandhinagar.

8. Rajubhai, a dalit youth was kidnapped and murdered in the year 2011. Still today his murderers have not been arrested by the police. Rajubhai’s brother Babubhai has also joined the fight for justice in Gandhinagar.

9. Rajvi Bindesh of Ola village (TaheshilKalol, Dist. Gandhinagar) was attacked by local bootleggers and he had to migrate with his family. Bindesh’s also joined the fight.

10. Police have falsely implicated more than three hundred persons in death of a police cop in Amreli city. In fact dalits had organised a protest rally and police determined to crush the rebel after Una atrocity fabricated the case. Mulabhai, father of Kanti Vala, who was the organiser of the rally and now in jail also joined this struggle and with him Baghabhai Babaria has also joined the fight because his son is also in jail in the case.

11. We have also demanded immediate removal of Dy SP and in charge of atrocity cell Mr. Bharvad of Amreli district as Mr. Bharvad is notorious for his anti- dalit bias and he has also been responsible for acquittal of atrocious Darbars (Kshatriya).

The victims of caste atrocities are fighting for justice at Pratirodh Chavani at Gandhinagar. They are on indefinite hunger strike. Gujarat government, still, has not shown any kind of sympathy for their demands. Slain soldier’s mother wants to give back medals.

Representation of Jethiben Jahabhai Rathod , village karadi, Taluko Sayala, District Surendranagar, to the Governor of Gujarat, Raj Bhawan, Gandhinagar, to return the medals her soldier son:

I am mother of an Indian soldier. My name is Jethiben. My husband is Jahabhai. We are Dalit, ex-untouchables of India.

We live in a small village of Karadi in Gujarat. Our’s is very small village where a word spoken by kathi darbar (kshatriya) is more powerful than judge of a court. He is not less than God. A by kathi darbar cannot be insulted by a dalit. For example, even one year old girl from by kathi darbar community is respected. And even eighty year old Dalit woman can be insulted, disgraced and humiliated. This is a normal social norm in my village.

On that fateful day of the year 2010, my son Dinesh, a soldier in Indian Army was shot dead by kathi darbars of our village. What was the crime of Dinesh? He just rebuked some gamblers who were creating nuisance in our neighborhood. They were gamblers, but they belong by kathi darbar community. They thought how a Dalit could dare to scold kathi darbar. He may be soldier, but after all he is Dalit. He should know his limitations. Very simple logic. And these gamblers, kathi darbars, treacherously entered our home with guns and fired at my son. They shot his father Jahabhai who barely survived. They also shot his nephew who died on the spot and whose name did not figure in the FIR, simply because the family members were not ready to face the wrath of kathi darbars.

My son was a soldier. Had he been aware of their plan, he would not have spared them. He was a courageous patriot. He was taught to fight against enemies of the nation. He didn’t know that there are some people in this country for whom caste status is more important than the status of a soldier.

They brutally killed my son. Story does not end here. In the court of law the five accused of murder were acquitted. It was shameful for police. The judge observed that the narration of weapon recovered from the accused did not match the expert report. My son’s murderers were acquitted. They were honoured by their community and shots were fired in the air to celebrate their acquittal.

Today, they, kathi darbars stare and scare us. We are constantly feared under their threat. We are not able to live peacefully in our village. They may kill my other son.

It is said that great patriots are now rulers of the country. I want to ask them only one question: Are we still ‘dalit’ even if we are ‘soldier’, the ultimate benchmark of sacrifice for the nation? Can you stop this disgusting and irrepressible caste hatred shown to us?

On this moment of pain and agony, I simply seek your appointment. I want to give back medals my son received for his gallantry and valor in the Indian Army. Will you give me a favour?

(This article was first published on Counter View. Additional inputs to Sabrang India staff provided by Raju Solanki).



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