A Dalit sarpanch of a village, 25 km from Ahmedabad, was not allowed to unfurl the national flag in a primary school on Independence Day by the upper caste principal of a century old village primary school. The sarpanch, Vinubhai M Makwana of Raska village — which has a population of about 15,000 — was told in public that he might be the sarpanch of the village, but would not be allowed to take the lead in social matters.
“It is our privilege to decide who will do what in this village,” Makwana quoted principal Ajit Gopalbhai Patel as having told him. “I told the principal that if that was the case, then what was the need to invite me to the function and humiliate me in such a rude fashion,” Makwana told this paper. Makwana has held his post for the past two and half years and has as much time to go before his term ends. Makwana said he had submitted a written application to the Ahmedabad police station in Kheda about the incident the next day, but the police did not file an FIR. Instead, they accepted a verbal apology from Patel and let him off. The police officer on duty expressed ignorance about any such incident.
Makwana said he had to give the application because Patel had also threatened him against trying to gain social acceptability. “You may become whatever but here, we will decide what will happen in the village, so don’t try such things,” Patel allegedly told him.
The Raska village primary school is a 105- year old school which was upgraded with 17 teachers in 2010. Patel, on his part, denied having insulted Makwana or having cast aspersions over his caste. “Already a compromise has been worked out,” he said. “We had invited him to the function but he could not make it on time, so a donor to school, also a Dalit, was requested to unfurl the flag, but he declined so we urged Amrutbhai Patel, who is a farmer,” said Patel. As to apologising before the police, he said it was just to avoid any misunderstanding. No government official was present at the function, Makwana said.
Makwana rubbished the claim, saying that Patel might be interested in a compromise but he was not going for one. “I have written to the district education officer who is expected to come to the village in the next two days,” he said.