In the industrial town of Thangadh in Gujarat, four Dalit laborers found themselves chained to a motorcycle and forced to dig a well. This horrifying ordeal only came to an end as two of the four managed to break free on the fourth night and informed the police who came over and freed the remaining men.
The authorities have taken swift action, apprehending both Kathat and Vanraj, the owner of a coal mine in the same village and his accomplice. Furthermore, an autorickshaw driver by the name of Rajubhai, who was reported to be involved in the crime, has also been identified and is currently being pursued by the police.
One of the victims, 34-year old Mukesh Rathod told the media about how he met Rajubhai, the auto driver, during his hunt from work. Rajubhai had offered an opportunity to work at a site for Rs 500 per day, along with the provisions of food and lodging. Rathod and three other labourers agreed to go with the driver in what would probably be the most harrowing event of their lives.
After arriving at the site, they met a man, Kathad, who led them to the mining site and informed them that they had to dig a well. Initially, he gave them the illusion of freedom and said that they could leave if the work proved too demanding.However, when they wanted to leave, Kathad demanded Rs 2500 from each labourer as he paid Rajubhai ₹2,500 for hiring each of them. When the workers said they did not have money, Kathat allegedly chained them to a motorbike. The four men have also accused the owner of the mine of beating and showering abuses on them.
On the night of September 30, two of them managed to escape and report the incident to the nearest police station. The next morning, police raided and freed the remaining victims.
The police have so far booked three accused in relation to the incident on charges which include voluntary causing harm, wrongful confinement, and sections of the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of the Indian Penal Code. Furthermore, the in-charge inspector of Thangadh, has promised to issue a comprehensive report on this incident to the geology and mining department, as well as the collectors and sub-divisional magistrates of Thangadh.
On October 2, 2023, a 17-year-old Dalit boy named Ajay Vankar and his family were violently beaten up in Narsinhpur village in Kapadwanj. The attack was reportedly in retaliation for Ajay protesting against untouchability meted out to him by a boy nameed Himanshu Thakor from a nearby village, Nirmali.
It all started when Ajay, who is a student at an Industrial Training Institute (ITI), confided in his father, Bhanu Vankar, about how Himanshu subjected him to harassment and caste-based slurs. It is also reported that Himanshu explicitly told Ajay to stay away because he belongs to a scheduled caste background and hurled a lit firecrackers at him.
Following this, Ajay’s father visited Himanshu’s house to speak with his family members about their son’s harassment. However, this intervention only seemed to make the situation worse. On a Monday morning, Himanshu came to their house, accompanied with five other people, which included his own mother and subjected Ajay, Bhanu, and their family members to a torrent of caste-based abuses and beating. Ajay himself was forcibly dragged out of his house by his hair after which Himanshu and his accomplices struck him on the head with a stone.
When other family members rushed to intervene and protect Ajay, they too were met with violence. Ajay’s mother was also struck on the head with a stone when she attempted to rescue her son.
The assailants fled the scene when other villagers began to gather. Even while leaving, they left by threatening the family further, seeming to have no regret or fear over their actions. Fearing for their lives, the family reported the incident to the police. A complaint was filed for a range of offenses, including rioting, unlawful assembly, causing grievous harm, criminal intimidation, and invoking the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act under the IPC.
These incidents serve to be a stark reminder of the insecurity and danger Dalits with which have to live their everyday lives. When a small abuse against a Dalit student could escalate into an assault on his family, it is never certain. When a job opportunity for a Dalit labourer could result in him being enslaved and beaten, one can never know. In fact, violence against Dalits has just risen. For instance, the number of reported crimes has risen over the years, and the NCRB has reported a 1.2 % increase in crimes against Dalits from 2020 to 2021, and these are figures only of the crimes that are reported to the police. It is also evident that politicians and policy makers seem to give the issue of violence against Dalits little attention and care.