Four years after a group of Dalits was allegedly flogged by self-styled gau rakshaks (cow vigilantes) in Mota Samadhiyala village of Una taluka in Gir Somnath district, one of the victims has written to President Ramnath Kovind requesting that they be provided means of livelihood or be deported to another country where they are treated as equal citizens.
The letter dated January 7, written by one of the Dalit flogging victims, Vashrambhai Sarvaiya, addresses the President of India, stating that the victims be either be allocated land for farming as they have no means of employment at present, or their citizenship be cancelled.
A group of cow vigilantes allegedly assaulted Balubhai Sarvaiya, his wife Kunvar, sons Vashram and Ramesh, nephews Ashok and Bechar as well as relative Devshi Babariya on July 11, 2016. The gau rakshaks attacked Vashram, Ramesh, Ashok and Bechar while they were skinning the carcass of a cow in Mota Samadhiyala village, accusing them of slaughtering the animal. When Sarvaiya and others tried to intervene, they were also thrashed. The assailants then allegedly kidnapped Vashram, Ramesh, Ashok and Bechar in a car, took them to Una town and flogged them publicly before abandoning them near Una police station.
“…Despite being Hindus, we are not considered as Hindus and we have been through torture/harassment (atyachar)… we are not considered citizens of India… so let our family members’ citizenship be cancelled and deported to a country where we are treated as citizens and as citizens there, we don’t have to face discrimination… the victims be granted permission for ichcha mrityu (euthanasia) as, if we cannot be considered as citizens and have to face torture despite being a Hindu and a native of India, then we feel, our lives in this country, is meaningless.”
Balubhai told The Indian Express on Monday, “We, Dalits, are not considered as human beings. It has been three years and we have not got any means of livelihood, justice or even assistance to build our homes. We strongly oppose the new Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). The way the government moved to enact… same interest is not shown in the case of atrocities against Dalits. Look at the Dalit (Modasa) girl’s gang rape case. The police was not even ready to lodge an FIR”.
The family embraced Buddhism in 2018, in protest against the caste system practised in Hinduism. “We are being discriminated against as Hindus,” said Balubhai, adding how Vashram, who has a six-month-old daughter, the first child in the family after the conversion, was christened by a Buddhist priest from Porbandar, as “Vidisha”. He says the trial in flogging case is pending in Veraval court despite the government announcing a speedy trial.
Vashram’s letter further states that despite repeated requests and communications to the authorities, there has been no response on the demands by the victim families.
“After the atyachar (flogging incident), the victim families’ means of livelihood have been snatched… We have had no means of income for four years now, which is why we have requested the government to allocate us land for farming. If the request cannot be acceded to, we will have no option but to immolate ourselves… we are informing in writing (right now), for which you will be held accountable… we request that our demands be paid attention to.”
Along with land, they have also demanded a response in writing. The letter was also marked to the Collector of Gir Somnath, the Chief Minister and police station of Gir Gadhada.
According to Balubhai, eight flogging victims got Rs 3 lakh each as compensation under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Rs 5 lakh each by then Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Rs 2 lakh each from then NCP leader Praful Patel, and Rs 2 lakh each from Samajwadi party leader, Mayawati.