Not many outside Junagadh had heard of Mota Samadhiyala. Until July 11.
But now this village in Una taluka is where everyone is headed — from Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, JD(U) veteran Sharad Yadav to NCP’s Praful Patel. And all have been heading straight to the house of Balu Sarvaiya, the head of the Dalit family flogged by gau rakshaks on July 11 for skinning a dead cow.
That single incident has put Mota Samadhiyala firmly on the map, triggering Dalit protests across Gujarat, rattling the administration and finding an echo in faraway Delhi where Parliament has been debating atrocities on Dalits, past and present.
Suresh Chandpa, a 29-year-old from Veraval, covered 100 km on his motorcycle to Mota Samadhiyala Monday to inquire about Balu Sarvaiya.
“When I saw on TV what happened on July 11, I was shocked, deeply pained. It left me wondering when will all this stop happening to our community. I met Balubhai and told him not to lose hope for justice,” said Chandpa who works with NGO Amardeep Foundation Trust as a supervisor of community toilets.
Over the weekend, the village had a flood of visitors, among them Union Minister Parshottam Rupala. Soon after Rupala left Sunday, Dalits came in trucks to be with the Sarvaiyas, and addressed meetings outside his house.
Around 300 Dalits from Mahuva taluka in Bhavnagar, who came in trucks, marched to the Sarvaiya neighbourhood, shouting “Babasaheb amar raho” and “Jai Bhim”.
The peace of the village shattered by the slogans and an unending stream of visitors, Balu Sarvaiya emerged from his room, and with folded hands, asked people to remain calm. He then retreated to his room.
In the drizzle, a young man from the Mahuva group started addressing the crowd: “We don’t want suspension of the policemen (who were witness to the flogging) but their dismissal.” An elderly man leading the group joined him: “It is time to raise our voice and say enough is enough.” There was applause all around.
Deven Vanvi, convenor of Saurashtra Dalit Sangathan and a resident of Junagadh, took over. “We will have to keep agitating till Balubhai gets justice. A day or two of protests will not do. Remember what happened in the other cases. We will have to keep protesting for 60 days or till the time the court delivers justice to this family,” Vanvi told the crowd.
After CID SP Sujata Majmudar left, the crowd tried to rush inside Balu’s room. But Sanjay Sondarva, who said he was Balu’s advocate, and Kevalsinh Rathod, a social activist of Kob village in Una taluka, bolted the door from inside. “His health is not good. So, please don’t rush in. Try to come in groups, one or two at a time,” Rathod told the crowd.
But once the doors opened, the Mahuva group charged in. They took photographs of Balu sleeping on his charpoy and then made way for others trying to force their way in.
Ramesh Baraiya, a casual labour hand from Bagdana village in Mahuva taluka, turned up with 22 other Dalits. He met Balu and his family members and told them not to lose heart. “We are here to stand with him in his fight for justice. If we do not show our support, people will forget about the incident after some days and atrocities will continue. We want justice for our community.”
The visitors from Bagdana were served bundi, ganthiya, vegetable curry and rotla (millet bread) for lunch by Balu’s extended family and relatives who have been camping here for a week now.
Swami Margyasmit, a Buddhist from Shree Vishva Mangal Ashram in Bharuch, also visited Balu. He and two other monks said they were here to express solidarity with the Dalits of Mota Samadhiyala.
It was a repeat of Sunday when Rupala came calling. Shashikant Trivedi, Inspector General of Police, CID (Crime), had to ask policemen to keep visitors at bay awhile CID officers led Balu to his room to record his statement.
Raniben Parmar, president of Than municipality in Surendranagar, reached Mota Samadhiyala with a dozen supporters. They started unloading sacks of ration, pulses, tins of edible oil and milk powder. They tried to meet Balu but the police stopped them. Eventually, they met Balu’s wife Kunvar and younger brother Mukesh.
“We thought of helping the family. We bought ration worth Rs 15,000 for their immediate need. It is our duty to help community members in need,” Bhupat Parhee, a councillor of Than Municipality, said.