October 31, 2021 1:26:15 am
The six Dalits who were allegedly assaulted by a group of members belonging to another caste at Ner village of Kutch district allegedly in protest of the Dalits entering a temple, could have been attacked because they had stayed away from the temple construction project and that there was a political rivalry between one the victims and the accused, police said on Saturday.
“Primary investigation has revealed that Dalits had entered the local Ram temple in the village during pranpratishtha (installations of idols) ceremony on October 20 and no one had protested against it. The construction of the temple was done around seven years ago and residents of the village had donated money for it as per their capacity. However, the Dalits had stayed away from the project. But in the run up to the pranprishtha ceremony, Jagabhai Vaghela, one the victims, told village elders that Dalits would like to contribute their share for the temple. However, village elders refused the offer saying the temple was complete and that there was no occasion to make donations now,” Mayur Patil, Superintendent of Police (SP) of Kutch (west), told The Sunday Express.
As per two FIRs registered at Bhachau police station in Kutch in connection with the incident, Jagabhai, his wife Badhi, eldest son Bhura and nephew Hasmukh were assaulted by a group of 20 men at Ner village on October 26. Before assaulting the Dalit family, the accused had let a herd of buffalo lose in the agricultural farm of the Vaghelas and crops.
When Jagabhai’s son Govind and younger brother Ganesha went to the farm, they were attacked by the accused.
After attacking Govind and Ganesha, the same group of accused went to the Dalit family’s home attacked Jagabhai and others, said police.
In their complaints, both Govind and Jagabhai had alleged that they were assaulted as they dared to enter the Ram temple in the village on October 20.
But the SP also said that the suggestions that the entire village was against the Dalits in general were not correct. “It will not be factually correct to portray these incidents as Dalits versus the rest of the village as Jagabhai had won village panchayat election from Ward No.6, which is dominated by voters from Rabari community, by defeating Bhanji Suthar, one of the accused, three years ago. In that election, Rabaris had voted for Jagabhai,” Patil added.
Patil said that in his complaint, Jagabhai has alleged that he and his family members were attacked by the accused after being instigated by Suthar. “Though Suthar was not present at either of the crime scenes, Jagabhai has stated that the accused belonging to Ahir and Rabari communities assaulted him and his family after being instigated by Suthar. So, we suspect the assault could have been motivated by political rivalry also and the temple visit could be the immediate trigger. Secondly, there are also allegations that the land being cultivated by the Vaghelas is gauchar (pastoral land) and occupation of most of the accused is cattle-herding and that they assaulted the Dalits for this reason. So, we are probing the case from multiple angles,” the SP further said.
“Six persons have been arrested in the case. Two more are under observation as they sustained injuries in the incident and are being treated for that,” the SP added. Meanwhile, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Pradip Parmar said that the state government has taken a serious note of the assault on Dalits in Kutch and that the six victims will be paid Rs21 lakh compensation cumulatively.
“The state government has taken very seriously the incident of members of Scheduled Castes being subjected to atrocities over entering a temple… Process has been initiated to pay Rs 21 lakh compensation to six persons injured in this incident of atrocities on Dalits,” an official release from the government quoted Parmar as saying.
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