Five persons, including the sarpanch, were arrested from Kalana village in Rajkot district for allegedly insulting and threatening a Dalit woman, police said Sunday. The arrests were made after the Dalit woman recently attempted suicide, citing pressure from the accused to withdraw a police complaint filed against them on April 20. All the five have been granted by a local court.
According to police, Savita Chauhan (45) had filed a complaint with Patanvav police against president of a Kalana cooperative society Rati Sherathiya, sarpanch Tulsi Sherathiya, former sarpanch Bhimji Vikani and two others identified as Champak Sherathiya and Pradip Sherathiya. In her complaint, she had alleged that the five threatened to kill her son and husband if they tried to restore the licence of their fair-price shop. Based on the complaint, police had booked the five for criminal intimidation and also under the sections of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. On April 28, Savita attempted suicide by consuming phenyl at her home after the five allegedly accosted her and asked her to withdraw the complaint. She was rushed to a hospital in Junagadh, where her condition was “improving gradually”.
Hours after the suicide bid, police swung into action and arrested Rati, Tulsi, Champak and Pradip, who were granted bail on the same day by a local court. On Saturday, police arrested Bhimji, but he was too granted bail. “Prima facie, this seems to be a minor issue. Criminal intimidation and sections of the Atrocity Act in this case provide for imprisonment of less than three years. Therefore, we did not seek custody of the accused. Moreover, the two sides are also in touch for a compromise,” Sunil Patil, DSP of Jetpur division, told The Indian Express on Sunday.
Sources said that the dispute started after Savita’s daughter-in-law Divya was awarded licence of a fair-price shop (FPS) by the government around a year ago. “Earlier, the village cooperative held the licence for the FPS. But, the cooperative society led by Rati Sherathiya surrendered it due to some disputes with the villagers. We applied for it. The cooperative society also applied to have it back. But, the government granted the licence to us. A handful of villagers protested this saying they would not go to a shop run by a Dalit. False cases have been filed against us and a month ago, they got our licence suspended for three months…,” Savita’s husband Dinesh Chauhan said.