Community members of the two men killed in Thursday’s caste violence in Gujarat’s Surendranagar and Morbi districts accused the police of behaving in a “partisan manner” as the mob ran riot for around three hours. The police have rejected the allegations. The violence had started on Thursday when a mob attacked around 40 people at Gopal Dham, a religious and social place of Bharwads on the outskirts of Halvad town in Morbi district.
The police said stones were thrown on vehicles of people on way to Dhrangadhra town in neighbouring Surendranagar district to attend a condolence meeting of Indrasinh Zala, the former president of Dhranagadhra municipality who was hacked to death on July 7. Surendranagar police suspect Zala was killed to avenge the murder of one Popat Bharwad in Dhrangadhra in 2012. Zala was booked for Bharwad’s murdered and was in jail. He was allegedly attacked and murdered while out on bail.
His brother Ajitsinh has named 14 people as accused. Police said names of almost all of them suggest they belong to Popat’s caste group. “People from the other caste attacked us assuming we had formed a group against them. But we had gathered at Gopal Dham to attend a meeting of our caste members to finalise plans for a proposed event to felicitate bright students from our caste. The fact that police have not recovered even a stick form the crime scene bears testimony to this. On the other hand, people from other caste who attacked us were carrying firearms and sharp-edged weapons,” said Bharat Bharwad, son of Popat, secretary of Gopalak Vikas Trust, the organisation which maintains Gopal Dham.
Morbi Superintendent of Police Jaipalsinh Rathore denied these allegations. “Police got the message about violence around 3.30 pm and reached there within 10 minutes. I had reached the spot at 4.08 pm. In fact, policemen helped shift the victims to hospital first. Nobody has complained to us that police did nothing to stop the rioters. Since, the people from the other community ran away, the rioters dispersed on their own quickly,” said Rathore.
Based on a complaint filed by Shiyar’s cousin Rama Gavtar, Halvad police have booked “40 to 50 men who arrived in four-wheelers” for murder, attempt to murder, rioting and under Arms Act.