CLAIMING THE Gujarat government has not kept any of its promises made to them, the Dalit victims of the 2016 Una flogging case on Tuesday wrote to the President of India, seeking permission for mercy killing. They also stated that one of them will start fast-unto-death in Delhi from December 7.
Writing on behalf of his family, Vashram Sarvaiya stated that the state government failed to keep promises made by then chief minister Anandiben Patel in the aftermath of the assault on his family and relatives on July 11, 2016. “She had assured us that the state government will allot five acres land to each of victims, that the victims will be given government jobs as per their qualification, and Mota Samadhiyala will be transformed into a developed village. Two years and four months have passed since the incident and the government has fulfilled none of its promises nor has it made any attempt to fulfill them,” Vashram wrote.
Vashram, his younger brother Ramesh, and their father Balu and mother Kunvar were among eight Dalits who were allegedly assaulted by cow vigilantes in Mota Samadhiyala village of Una taluka in Gir Somnath district on July 11, 2016. The assailants had accused the Dalits of slaughtering a cow, but the police investigation later concluded that they were merely skinning a cow carcass. Videos of the assault had gone viral and led to national outcry. The incident had also led to state wide protests by Dalits. Scores had attempted suicide and one of them had died also.
Vashram said that the attack had forced them out of their traditional occupation of skinning carcasses. “We have quit the occupation of selling animal hides and therefore are left with no other means of livelihood. It is possible we would die due of hunger in future. We have represented our case repeatedly in writing and orally, but the Gujarat government has not paid any attention to any of our problems,” he said.
He further wrote that he and the rest of the victims were pained at the fact that the government is not withdrawing 74 cases filed against Dalits in connection with violent protests that erupted in the state after the Una flogging incident came to light. “Police had filed totally false cases against Dalits during the agitation. Whenever we go out to attend some social event of our community, we feel pain and distress to note that cases filed against members of our community have not been withdrawn,” the letter read.
The 28-year-old Vashram also accused the state government of not providing them adequate security, and said that he and his family wanted to end their lives. “Our case is being heard by a court in Veraval. Despite our plea to the state home department, neither we nor the witnesses have been given armed policemen protection. Nor are police arranging any vehicles for ferrying witnesses to the court. On the other hand, the accused are getting bail. They are violating their bail conditions and indulging in other offences. Despite all this, the state government has done nothing to get bail of such people cancelled. So, the state government has failed to meet our demands. Our lives have become miserable now. We do not want to live longer and hence are seeking permission for mercy killing,” Vashram, who has studied till Class X, wrote.
He also demanded that the state government move the Supreme Court to get bail of accused cancelled, appoint a special public prosecutor for opposing bail application of accused in High Court, accord the Veraval court powers of a designated court, reimburse expenses that witnesses are incurring for attending court proceedings and also set up a police outpost in Mota Samadhiyala village.
Incidentally, Balu’s late father and three uncles jointly owned around an acre of agricultural land in Mota Samadhiyala. But Vashram said that their share in the land plot was not large enough to even construct homes. He said if these demands are not met, he would start a fast-unto-death in front of residence of BJP MP Kirit Solanki in Delhi from December 7 onward.
Solanki is Member of Parliament from Ahmedabad (West) Lok Sabha seat and incumbent chairperson of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Incidentally, Piyush Sarvaiya, a Dalit from Delvada village of Una, had written a similar letter to the President in October, stating that he would go on hunger strike outside Kirit Solanki’s Delhi residence from December 7. Piyush had alleged in the letter that the state government had failed to rehabilitate his family after they were forced to flee their village following murder of his elder brother in 2012.