Jethiben Rathod (65), a Dalit woman from Surendranagar district, declared at Satyagraha Chhavni in Gandhinagar Sunday that she will sit on an indefinite hunger strike from Monday to protest against the killing of her son, Dinesh — a soldier of the Indian Army and winner of four gallantry awards, who was killed allegedly by upper-caste men after he asked them not to gamble near his house. She has asked the state government to reopen the murder case, get it investigated by the CBI and give compensation of Rs 10 lakh.
All five accused in the case were later acquitted by court, reportedly on the ground that the weapon recovered by police did not match with the bullets fired on Dinesh. Jethiben is joined by more than 15 Dalits from Saurashtra who are sitting on dharna in Gandhinagar for the past more than 10 days with various demands of justice in cases of atrocities. On Sunday afternoon, the Dalits held a public meeting. Speaking on the occasion, Jethiben, from Karadi village of Sayla taluka of Surendranagar district, said, “My son had come home on leave from the Army. Some upper-caste people (Darbars) were creating nuisance while gambling near our house. My son asked them not to do so. Next day, the same set of people came, fired at my son and killed him for objecting to their gambling outside our home.”
“Five persons were arrested in the case, but were later acquitted by the court. The day they were acquitted, they carried out a procession and burst crackers. And now, we are living in constant threat from these people. We face daily harassment from them. They keep on staring at us when we step out,” she added. Dinesh was killed in March 2010 and the accused were acquitted by court in September 2014.
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“We are protesting here for more than 10 days, surviving on one-time meal. But we are going to stop eating from Monday. We don’t mind dying here if justice is not delivered,” Jethiben said.
Raju Solanki, human rights activist who is assisting Jethiben and 15 other Dalit victims of atrocities, mainly from Saurashtra, said, “Dinesh was killed in broad daylight for protesting gambling by some upper-caste men near his house. And five persons are acquitted mainly because the weapon recovered by police did not match with the bullets fired on him. Who is at fault? Is this how we respect our soldiers?”
Parmar said that Jethiben has submitted her demands to the state government in writing, but so far nothing has happened. Like Jethiben, around 15 other Dalit victims are also sitting on protest demanding justice in various cases of atrocities, like rape, abduction, murder, forced migration etc. And all of them have also submitted their demands in writing to the state Government.
Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said, “The government is sensitive towards all the issues being faced by the Dalit community…Their (Dalits on protest at Satyagraha Chhavni) demands are many… and require a long time to address them. We have sent those demands to the respective departments of the government.”