An ostensible issue of alleged encroachment on grazing and village land of Sapreda,an interior village in the border district of Banaskantha,has culminated into a case of robbery and assault provoking the male members of around 50 families of Kolis,Thakors and Dalits to disappear fearing police action,abandoning their illiterate women behind. These men have reportedly gone underground after a local resident,close to a BJP minister and MLA,on whose petition the authorities demolished certain hutments,filed a criminal complaint against them.
With elections round the corner,the issue is assuming a political colour with Congress alleging that the demolition has taken place at the behest of a BJP man from the village – Baba Patel – who is close to local BJP MLA and Minister of State for Water Supply and Health and Family Welfare,Parbat Patel.
The issue started with the demolition of around 50 hutments in the village in May following an order of the Gujarat High Court directing the authorities to decide Babas application of 2008 to remove the encroachment on grazing and village land in accordance with law. Later,Baba made filed application before district authorities to remove some other encroachments that were not demolished earlier. Sapreda is a village of 2500-3000 people.
Following the second application,Baba and some of his supporters were allegedly attacked by around 25 persons who have been named in the complaint along with a mob of around 50-60 unidentified persons on June 13. Following the complaint,the accused have vanished and their women are living in helpless conditions.
Maviben is from one such family whose men have disappeared following the criminal complaint. Nine male members of my family have been named accused in the case. We do not know where they are now? Not a single male member is left in the family and with monsoon approaching,we are wondering who will till our farms?, she said.
Not only those who have been named have vanished but also,those who apprehend they would be framed in the case by showing their presence in the mob, she adds.
The women are alleging that the case is being misused to harass them as they do not vote for BJP. They are also holding Parbat Patel directly responsible for the same.
Baba Patel,on the other hand,alleges that he has been raising the issue of encroachment on grazing and village land since years on merit. Now,since the encroachments have been partially demolished and a criminal complaint against the squatters is lodged after they attacked me,they are seeking political help from Congress, he alleges.
Had Saheb been behind this,we would have got registered a criminal complaint of attempt to murder against the accused, he reasons while defending Parbat Patel.
Parbat Patel could not be contacted for his comments despite repeated attempts.