Around 4 am Sunday, 20-year-old Jayesh Solanki woke up his mother who was sleeping on the verandah of their house: “I will be back in an hour. Keep breakfast ready. I will have to leave for Vadodara, so that I can be at work by 6 am.” Madhuben nodded. Her son, a Class X dropout, who used to work as a daily wager in Bhadraniya in Borsad taluka of Anand district, had landed a job as a security guard at a Navratri venue in Vadodara. He had returned home to Vankarvas in Bhadraniya late at night but decided to watch the garba outside the Someshwar temple in the village.
But Jayesh never returned. Within the hour, the Dalit youth was dead. He was beaten to death, allegedly by men who were upper-caste Patels, for watching the garba — police later arrested all eight accused, including a juvenile. The seven men have been sent to judicial custody.
On Monday, Prakashbhai Solanki (23), Jayesh’s cousin, said: “I was sitting on a wall outside the temple with my friend Deepakbhai. We were watching the garba when Sanjaybhai Patel came and abused us. He used derogatory words about my caste and said, ‘what are you looking at?’ Jayesh, who was also there, told him we are watching what you are watching.”
“Sanjay left but returned soon with seven others, all Patels. It must have been around 4.30 am. He slapped me. Jayesh stopped him when he tried to do it again. The other men with Sanjay caught hold of Jayesh by the neck and pushed him against the wall. They banged his head against the wall and he lost consciousness. But they kept kicking him, sat on him and punched him,” said Prakashbhai, now a witness in the case.
The assailants fled from the spot when others in the village rushed forward.
Jignesh Patel (38), one of 80 members of the Shiv Mandal that has been organising the village garba at the temple for the last 16 years, said: “We were on the stage when we heard a commotion. We saw some people had gathered near the temple gate. As soon as we reached there, the assailants fled. We saw Jayesh lying on the floor, unconscious. There was no bleeding. We took him on a motorcycle to a private hospital in Borsad.”
From the private hospital, he was referred to Pramukhswami Medical College in Karamsad where he was declared brought dead. The post-mortem report pointed to intracranial haemorrhage or head injury as the cause of death.
Anand Collector Dr Dhaval Patel said: “As desired by the victim’s family, the postmortem was conducted by a panel and videographed.”
The accused have been booked under IPC sections and under provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The district administration announced a compensation of Rs 8.25 lakh for Jayesh’s family.
Produced in a Borsad court, seven of the eight accused — the eighth is a 17-year-old — were sent to judicial custody Monday. Police named the seven men: Sanjay alias ‘Bhimo’ Patel (24); Dhaval Patel (27); Rutvik Patel (22); Ripen Patel (22); Chintan Patel (27); Jignesh Patel (34); and, Dipesh Patel (22).
Deputy Superintendent of Police J N Vyas said: “The accused were produced before the Borsad court on Monday evening. We demanded seven-day police custody for further investigation. This was rejected by the local court. The accused have been remanded in judicial custody, and sent to Borsad sub-jail.