The Anand district police has detained and booked a person under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for allegedly refusing the cremation of a Dalit man inside the common crematorium at Sisva village in Borsad taluka of the district.
The incident occurred on Tuesday when a family in Rohitvaas area of the village arrived at the common village crematorium to conduct the final rites of the deceased, Bhikhabhai Rohit (70), police said. According to the complaint filed by the deceased’s nephew, Kanti Rohit, at Bhadran police station, the head of the village development council, Narendra Patel, refused to hand over the keys of the crematorium to the family and asked them to go to the open cremation ground that had been designated for the Dalit community a few years ago.
The family then informed police who arrived at the spot and instructed Patel to open the gates of the crematorium. Deputy Superintendent of Police, Petlad, RL Solanki, said, “The family of the deceased had called the police immediately after an argument had broken out between them and Patel. The issue was that there was a separate open crematorium in the village for the Dalit community, but the land had been waterlogged during the monsoon as it had no facilities. So, for the last six months or so, the Dalit community has been conducting its cremations at the common crematorium. Yesterday, Patel asked them to go back to the open ground because the monsoon is over.”
The deceased had died of natural causes, police said. According to the police, this has been the first such incident in the village. “Just three weeks ago, another cremation from the Dalit community had taken place in the village crematorium. There was no issue. Locals from both sides told us that they were carrying out cremations peacefully until yesterday. The family said that when Patel suggested that they should go back to the open ground, they informed him that the ground has not been cleaned since monsoon and is not fit for holding cremations. Since he seemed rigid about his decision, the police intervened and the crematorium was opened for the family,” Solanki said.
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Patel, who has been detained and will undergo a Covid-19 test as per protocol before being formally arrested, has been booked under section 341 of the IPC for wrongful restraint and relevant sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The Act specifically lays down punishment for refusal to allow a SC/ ST member to use common property resources of an area, including burial or cremation grounds.
Incidentally, Sisva is a village that follows the Samras pattern of choosing the panchayat — through mutual consent instead of an election — since the last four terms, with two consecutive terms led by women of the village.
Superintendent of Police, Anand, Ajit Rajian said, “Police had reached the spot immediately and registered the offence… There was no law and order issue at all due to quick action taken.”