A day after Dalit deputy sarpanch, Manji Solanki, was beaten to death, allegedly by a group of upper caste men on a state highway in Botad, police arrested eight accused on Thursday for the murder, amid uproar from the Dalit community demanding justice.
Speaking To The Indian Express, deputy superintendent of police (SC/ST cell) in Botad, ZR Desai, said, “Multiple teams were formed under the Bhavnagar police range to nab the accused after we received information that they might flee to Bhavnagar from their village, Jalila, under Ranpur Taluka of Botad. Around 5pm today (Thursday), we intercepted a utility jeep in which the accused were travelling on Sarangpur-Barwala three-way road and arrested them.”
The eight accused are Ashok Khachar (51), Vanraj Khachar (42), Pratap Khachar (38), Rituraj Khachar (22), Raviraj Khachar (25), Hardeep Khachar (21), Kishore Khachar (30) and Bhagirath Khachar (24), all from Jalali village and belonging to the Kshatriya community. Ashok has been identified as the prime accused and all eight have been booked under sections 302, 504, 506, 427, 143, 147, 148, and 120 B for murder, intentional insult, criminal intimidation, mischief, unlawful assembly, rioting, rioting with deadly weapon and criminal conspiracy respectively under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) along with the SC/ST (prevention of atrocity) Act.
Manji Solanki, deputy sarpanch of Jalila village in Ranpur Taluka of Botad, was riding a motorcycle from Charanki village on Barwala-Ranpur state highway around 1pm on Wednesday when he was mowed down by a car whose occupants beat him up with clubs and iron pipes. He was declared brought dead at Ahmedabad Civil Hospital around 6pm.
Manji had filed an application seeking police protection alleging threats from the Kshatriya community members in his village, stating that he was attacked in 2010, 2011, 2016 and 2018. His appeal has been pending for two weeks.
On Thursday, dozens of Dalit activists with placards and banners staged a protest at the Civil Hospital, when postmortem of Manji’s body was going on. They demanded justice for the deceased deputy sarpanch’s family and raised slogans against Minister of State for Home, Pradeepsinh Jadeja. Manji’s family alleged that the state government did nothing to provide security to an elected represe- ntative, despite threats to his life.
The family members also claimed that they do not feel safe going back to their village in Jalali and demanded them to be shifted to Ahmedabad. After multiple rounds of negotiations with the government, Manji’s son, Tushar Solanki, presented a six-point demand letter to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.
“We have demanded immediate arrest of the accused. My father had filed other cases against the accused in the past. All the cases must be tried in the district court of Ahmedabad and our family must be shifted there. We must be provided a government lawyer of our preference to represent in all the cases. Police protection must be given to our family all the time and licence to keep weapons must also be granted for our self defence,” said Tushar Solanki.
Naushad Solanki, member of legislative assembly for Dasada constituency, also visited the victim’s family at Civil Hospital and demanded justice. “I appeal to the state government to provide immediate police security to the victim’s family and wherever Dalits are facing atrocity in Gujarat, they must be given protection,” said Naushad.
Manji’s body was handed over to the body by late evening on Thursday and was taken to Jalali for cremation.
Senior Dalit leader from BJP and former minister in Gujarat Government, Ramanlal Vora, said the state government was taking all legal steps in the case and that orders have been issued by Min-ister of State for Home Prad-eepsinh Jadeja to ensure strictest punishment to the accused.
In a press statement issued by the party, Vora was quoted as saying that a meeting of the state monitoring committee for implementation of Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was held Wednesday in which decisions were to make sure that such incidents do not happen. The release added that the Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has appealed to the people “not to assess such incidents on the basis of caste”.