The parents of an Indian Army soldier, who was allegedly killed by upper caste members six years back at their village in Surendranagar district, have sat on a dharna in Gandhinagar demanding justice, after the accused were acquitted by a local court for lack of evidence. The Dalit couple, Jahabhai Rathod (66) and his wife Jethiben (65), from Karadi village of Surendranagar district, have been sitting on an indefinite hunger strike at Satyagrah Chhavni in the state capital for last two weeks, demanding a CBI inquiry into their son Dinesh Rathod’s murder in 2010.
According to Rajubhai Solanki, convener of Dalit rights outfit ‘Pratirodh’, Dinesh was recipient of four Army gallantry medals and posted at Jammu and Kashmir.
“He was a brave soldier and was given promotion after he won four gallantry medals. When he was under training in Hyderabad after promotion, he came to his native village Karadi in Sayla takuka of Surendranagar in 2010. At that time, he had an altercation with some upper caste Kathi-Darbar youths of the village,” he said. “Rathod scolded the accused for gambling outside panchayat office using abusive language. Since Rathod was a Dalit, these upper caste men did not like it and decided to teach him a lesson out of grudge,” said Solanki, who formed ‘Pratirodh’ – an outfit to raise the issue of atrocities on Dalits.
The next day, the accused allegedly stormed the soldier’s house and shot Rathod dead using a 12 bore gun, by firing at him point-blank.
According to Solanki, though police arrested five accused at that time, they eventually came out of jail in 2014 after a local court acquitted them citing lack of evidence. The couple alleged that the investigation by police was biased and shoddy, which led to the acquittal.
“Since then, Rathod’s parents are living in fear and agony, as they suspect that the accused might also attack them. They also want a CBI inquiry into the case and a compensation of Rs 25 lakhs, as they are living on a small piece of agriculture land,” said Solanki.
Two days back Jethiben was admitted to civil hospital after she fell unconscious due to weakness during the dharna. She is out of danger, but still receiving treatment at the hospital, he said. The couple has sought time from Gujarat Governor O P Kohli to make a detailed representation for their demand.
“In coming days, we are planning to meet the Governor on this issue. We have sought time from the Governor’s office. We are hopeful of meeting him soon,” said Solanki.