Bhadarniya village, some 40 km from Anand, where 21-year-old Jayesh Solanki was killed allegedly by upper caste Patels for watching garba on the night of Dussehra, has a history of caste conflicts. In 2000, the father of one of the accused in the current case was booked in a similar atrocity case but acquitted because of lack of evidence. The village, with an estimated population of nearly 5,000, is dominated by Patels and Thakores.
On February 28, 2000, Dalits of the village had protested construction of a compound wall by upper castes Patels and Thakore (OBC) around Verai Mata temple that was situated at the entrance of Vankarvas, the locality of Dalits in the village. “As the wall was likely to close the passage into our locality, elders of our society approached the sarpanch and requested him to stop the construction. But he did not pay heed to our complaint as his son was involved in building the wall,” said Chhotabhai Solanki, one of the complainants.
Back then, the incident reportedly led to an assault on Dalit women by Patels and Thakores.
According to the account as stated in the October 2002 order of the additional sessions court, accessed by The Indian Express, the accused “pelted stones and hit them with sticks and humiliated them in public with derogatory caste abuses”. The mob also damaged Dalit houses in the Vankarvas.
The court had, however, acquitted all the 13 accused for want of evidence.
The village, where the Schedule Caste constitutes nearly 6 to 7 per cent of the population, witnessed another case of caste atrocity on March 13, 2000 — nearly a fortnight after the first atrocity incident.
After the February 28 attack, a police picket was set up outside Vankarvas. But that day a mob of nearly 250 people, armed with sticks and scythes, attacked the Dalit locality. As the mob marched towards Vankarvas, the police opened fire. The mob got dispersed, but not without ransacking Dalit homes.
A total of 42 accused in this attack were charged by the additional sessions court in 2002. But like the previous case, they were acquitted due to lack of evidence by the special trial court (atrocity) at Kheda, Nadiad. Among the accused was Ramesh Harkabhai Patel, father of Dhaval Patel one of the eight booked for Jayesh Solanki’s murder.
Another such case was reported three years ago during Uttarayan festival. “The upper caste Patels objected to our flying kites on our terrace and attacked us,” said Sanjaybhai Parmar, one of the victims in the attack.
Murder witnesses seek police protection
The two witnesses to the murder of Dalit youth Jayesh Solanki have demanded police security, citing threat to their lives. On the request of Prakashbhai Rameshbhai Solanki and Deepakbhai Dahyabhai Solanki, Anand Collector Dhaval Patel said that round the clock security has been provided to both the witnesses.