To protest the Una flogging, the community of skinners in Surendranagar district has refused to dispose of dead cattle, neither owned nor stray. The onus of disposing of carcasses has now completely fallen on Surendranagar-Dudhrej nagar-palika. In the last six days, the municipality has buried more than 150 dead cattle at Suren-dranagar vermicompost plant and charmkund on Malod Road.
On July 18, 2016, the community had dumped bodies of cattle outside the district collector’s office to protest the flogging of seven Dalits in Una taluka of Gir Somnath district by “gau rakshaks” on July 11. The seven were attacked when they were found skinning a dead cow.
With the skinners refusing to claim dead cattle, there is also resentment among safai kamdaars, who alleged that they are being forced to dispose of the carcasses. “In Vadhwan alone, more than 70 cattle carcasses were disposed of in the last one week, with 22 on Sunday alone. In Surendranagar city, more than 31 cattle were reported dead. In Limdi, 35 were reported dead from a panjrapole on a single day,” said chief officer of Surendranagar-Dudhrej Nagar-palika Girishkumar R Saraiya.
The municipality authorities claimed that with the help of earthmovers and panjrapole staffers, they are burying the dead cattle. “Panjrapole staffers are voluntarily helping us out,” said the chief officer. However, safai kamdars — employed on a contractual basis — are complaining about being forced to dispose of the carcasses, which is otherwise not a part of their duty. “Already we have not been paid for the last three months. Now, we are told to help dispose dead cattle. We tried to oppose this, but were threatened that we would be thrown out of our jobs,” said a safai kamdar. Safai Kamdar Hak Rakshak Samiti had submitted a complaint in this regard to Surendranagar Collector Udit Agrawal on July 20. The same day Surendranagar witnessed a district-wide bandh with sporadic incidents of violence. The safai kamdars also staged a protest Wednesday outside the nagarpalika office.
The municipality, so far, has failed to convince the skinners to resume their work. “We have approached them to resume their work, but they have refused. The skinners said they are protesting peacefully and assured us that they will not interfere in the municipality burying the carcasses,” said Saraiya. Despite finding it hard to make ends meet, the community has remained unmoved. “It has been more than 10 days, we have not earned a single rupee… But we all have decided to stand together and fight for our fundamental rights,” said Paljibhai Chavda, one of the community members from Vadhwan.
The community, led by Dalit Manav Adhikar Jumbesh, has submitted a fresh memorandum to all 10 mamlatdars of Surendranagar district, demanding justice and compensation for the victims of Una incident, besides safeguarding of the rights of the skinners. Due to the protest by skinners, residents of Surendranagar are facing problems too.
“We called up one skinner Tuesday when we spotted a dead cow on the street outside our house, but he simply declined to lift it up… Then somebody told us to inform the municipality. The vehicle came after hours to take away the dead cattle,” said Baldevbhai Parmar from Limdi.