The family members of the third victim of the caste violence in Morbi and Surendranagar districts claimed his body Monday evening, following a day-long protest and negotiations, after DGP in-charge Geeta Johri assured of ordering an additional DGP-level probe. The family members of Keta Nagji Vakatar — a farmer-cum-cattle breeder who had died Sunday morning after being injured in the clash at Gopal Dham on the outskirts of Halvad (Morbi district) on July 13 — claimed the body after leaders of their community met Johri. Keta had died while undergoing treatment at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital.
“I assured that an ADGP will supervise the investigation on the instruction of the government,” she told The Indian Express. When asked if SIT is being set up to probe the caste violence, which was triggered by the recent murder Indrasinh Zala, former president of Dhrangadhra municipality in Surendranagar district, the DGP in-charge said that “the government will decide it tomorrow”.
Earlier in the day, leaders of Keta’s community submitted a memorandum to the Ahmedabad district collector and a held dharna, while a group named Maldhari Vikas Sangathan submitted a memorandum to Morbi district collector, seeking resignation of MoS for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja. “Members of any community going to attend a condolence meeting do not carry arms. Whereas, those going to attend the said condolence meeting were carrying arms and had criminal intent. They did it (attack at Gopal Dham) with a view to terrorise our community… It was a planned attack and the Home Minister failed to protect our community, therefore, he should resign immediately,” stated the memorandum.
According to Morbi police, members belonging to Zala’s community were on their way to Dhrangadhra town to attend his condolence meeting when stones were pelted on their cars near Gopal Dham, leading to the violence. Meanwhile, suspension of mobile Internet services in both Morbi and Surendranagar was extended for one more day amid tension in both the districts. Main markets in Dhrangadhra remained shut for the day, even as police facilitated a “peace” meeting and asserted that there was no risk to normal business. Government-run primary and secondary schools were open, but students did not turn up. There were also only a few people at the government and the municipality offices in the town.
“Leaders from both the communities told traders it was safe for business, but apparently, they (traders) were bothered by rumours,” Surendranagar SP Deepak Meghani said. Tension also prevailed in Halvad town in the neighbouring Morbi district, but shops and offices opened there on Monday. No untoward incident was reported in the two districts, police said.
Morbi and Surendranagar districts have witnessed violence since the murder of Zala, accused in the murder of one Popat Bharvad in Dhrangadhra in 2012. Zala’s brother Ajitsinh in the police complaint has stated that his brother was attacked by members of Popat’s caste due to hostilities created by the 2012 murder.So far, Dhrangadhra taluka police have arrested one person in connection with Zala’s murder, while Halvad police have nabbed 11 men for the Gopal Dham clash. “The arrested accused have admitted to going to Dhrangadhra last Thursday to attend Zala’s condolence meeting,” Halvad police inspector Rana Bhojani.