Manji Solanki, a Dalit deputy sarpanch of a village in Gujarat, whose application for police security was pending for almost two weeks, was murdered, allegedly by a group of men from upper-caste Kshatriya community on Wednesday.
From Jalila village in Ranpur taluka of Botad district, Manji was riding his motorcycle when it was knocked down by a car whose occupants then beat him up with clubs and iron pipes, said Manji’s son Tushar Solanki. He died en route to a hospital in Ahmedabad.
R N Nakum, Deputy Superintendent of Police of Botad division, which covers Ranpur, said information shared by the victim’s family about the sequence of events appeared plausible. “We have sent a team to Ahmedabad to collect information and then register an offence. But the crime scene suggests that what the victim’s family is saying looks prima facie true,” Nakum said.
Botad Superintendent of Police Harshad Mehta told The Indian Express that Manji did make a representation to his office on June 6. “He had approached us with a request to give him personal security officers. As part of the due process, the police station concerned was undertaking a threat assessment,” he said, adding that the Dalit family did not have any police protection as of Wednesday.
This is the third incident in less than a month in the Saurashtra region where a Dalit has been murdered, allegedly by Kshatriyas.
The victim’s family claimed Manji’s repeated requests for police protection did not elicit a positive response. Before the attack Wednesday, he had been targeted four times, the last on March 3, 2018 when he was stabbed, claimed Manji’s son Tushar. Thereafter, Manji received police protection, but it was withdrawn two months later on May 17, 2018, according to Arvind Makwana of Navsarjan, an Ahmedabad-based NGO working for Dalit rights.
Tushar said his father named two of the five-six persons who assaulted him.
According to police, Wednesday’s incident took place around 1.5 km from Jalila village on the Barwala-Ranpur state highway around 2 pm when Manji was returning home from Charanki, a village 5 km away.
Maniben Sagathiya, police sub inspector of Ranpur, told The Indian Express, “We are on our way to Ahmedabad to meet the victim’s family and get first-hand information. According to primary information, the victim was riding a motorbike while the accused were in a car.”
Sagathiya said Manji was first taken to a private hospital in Dhandhuka town of neighbouring Ahmedabad district. “From there, he was referred to Ahmedabad for further treatment. However, he succumbed to injuries on the way to Ahmedabad,” he said.
Manji’s family has a copy of a memorandum that he had reportedly submitted to police in June 2018. It has details of the previous attacks on him.
“During the Ranpur taluka panchayat election which my wife was contesting as a BJP candidate, Kathi Darbars from this village had attacked me during polling and the matter is pending with a court. In 2011, I was attacked at my home with dangerous weapons and this matter is also pending with a court and then in 2016 (by sword) and that case is also pending with a court. Recently, on the night of March 3, 2018, I was attacked with a knife in Barwala and I was injured. In connection with this incident, we, the applicant, had filed a complaint at Barwala police station… Thus, there was an attempt on my life four times,” Manji had stated in his memorandum.
Botad SP Mehta said Manji had indeed been attacked in 2010, 2011, 2016 and 2018 and that the police had registered offences after each incident. He said the accused behind Manji’s attack were the same as being named by the family for his murder. “The accused in all these cases were same. But the latest case of 2018 was under IPC Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and the accused had subsequently got bail,” Mehta said.
Asked about the letter in which Manji had alleged a threat to his life, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Sanjay Srivastava declined to comment on it.
Outside the mortuary department of the civil hospital in Ahmedabad, where Manji’s body lay, scores of supporters and other Dalit activists had assembled in the evening.
M M Prabhakar, Medical Superintendent of the Civil Hospital, said, “Yes, the body of one Manji Solanki, victim of a murder case, had arrived at the Civil Hospital in the evening hours. The post mortem will be conducted on Thursday morning and till then it will be preserved in the mortuary.”
Manji’s son Tushar said: “For the last 20 years, persons from my family are being elected sarpanch of the village. Presently, my mother Geeta is serving as sarpanch while my father was deputy sarpanch. There was a tussle between the Darbars and my father ever since 2010. The Darbars (Kshatriyas) cannot stand the fact that Dalits get elected sarpanch.”
The family has a video clip, purportedly shot while Manji was being taken to hospital. In the clip, Manji is heard taking names of persons. “I was on my way back home from Charanki. They rammed their four-wheeler and then assaulted me with sticks and pipes while hurling abuses at me… They also said that my phone has to be broken else I would alert others by making calls. So, they damaged my phone also,” he is heard saying in the clip.
Meanwhile, Z R Desai, Deputy Superintendent of Police (SC/ST Cell) of Botad, reached Ahmedabad to register a complaint in connection with Manji’s death.