As many as 200 Dalits in Amreli district have threatened to convert to Buddhism alleging police inaction in conducting a fair probe into the death of a community member in judicial custody two weeks ago. Jignesh Saundarva (29), who was lodged in Amreli sub- jail, died at a civil hospital on June 15. Though Amreli Police on Tuesday nabbed four prisoners from the sub-jail on the charges of killing Saundarva, Dalit community members as well as the deceased’s kin expressed unhappiness over the probe and rushed to the collector’s office to take forms for conversion.
Saundarva was shifted to civil hospital after he developed health complications while being lodged in the Amreli sub-jail, police had said. He was arrested under the Gujarat Prohibition Act from Dungar village in Rajula tehsil of the district and was sent in judicial custody on June 12. Earlier, Saundarva’s family had refused to accept his body demanding a fair probe into the incident.
Following a day-long protest, they had claimed the body after getting an assurance of a fair probe from the police as well as the district administration. The Amreli crime branch arrested four prisoners who allegedly caused fatal injuries to Saundarva during a brawl inside the jail.
“Our probe has revealed that Saundarva had a scuffle with four undertrials inside the jail over some petty issue. During the scuffle, the accused thrashed him and hit his head on the wall, which led to his death. We arrested all these prisoners from the jail,” Amreli crime branch’s police inspector A P Patel said.
However, Saundarva’s kin as well as local Dalit leaders expressed unhappiness over the police action, as they alleged that Saundarva died due to police torture. “The post-mortem report suggests that Saundarva was beaten up three to four days before he was sent to jail. That means he was tortured during police remand. He might have been thrashed by the jail staff too during judicial custody,” Dalit leader Navchetan Parmar alleged.
“We want the CBI to investigate the case. We do not have any faith in the police,” he said. “To give a strong message to the government, around 200 Dalits from Dungar and other adjoining places have decided to leave Hinduism and embrace Buddhism, for which many of them have collected forms from the the collector’s office. We will submit these forms in the coming days,” said Parmar, who is leading the agitation.
He announced that these 200 Dalits will start their journey towards embracing Buddhism by immersing idols and photographs of Hindu gods and goddesses, kept in their homes, in Thebi dam of the district today. “Even if the government orders CBI inquiry, we will not step back from our decision to covert in protest of such an injustice. If needed, we will also dig out Saundarva’s body from the grave and march to the collector’s office on July 7 to raise our demand for a fair probe,” Parmar said.