Stones were hurled at a wedding procession of a Dalit groom allegedly by upper castes people in a village in Gujarat’s Aravalli district on Sunday leading to violence and police lathicharge.
In less than a week’s time, this is the fourth such incident in Gujarat in which Dalits have faced resistance from local upper castes while carrying out wedding procession in their villages.
Also on Sunday, a marriage procession of a Dalit youth at Sitvada village in Prantij tehsil of Sabarkantha district was held under heavy police deployment fearing attack from members of the upper castes. Two days ago, a Dalit constable’s wedding procession in the same area was also held under police protection.
Violence erupted at Khambhisar village in Modasa taluka of Aravalli district on Sunday after stones were pelted at the wedding procession allegedly by local upper castes people who were allegedly against the Dalits taking out such processions and had reportedly organised yagnas and havans, a religious ceremony, on the main road of the village.
Members of the Dalit community had taken prior permission from the police to carry out the wedding procession of Jayesh Rathod in the village and had also sought police protection for the same, sources said.
According to a friend of the Dalit groom, the upper caste villagers had organised yagna at various points of the main road of the village to stop the wedding procession.
“They (upper castes) did not want us to carry out a marriage procession, and therefore, they held a number of yagna at various points on the main road to make sure that our procession did not go further. When our wedding procession passed through Patel Faliya, it was stopped despite police trying to calm them (upper castes) down. Soon, stones were hurled at us and most of us (Dalits) ran for cover and hid in the fields nearby,” Harsh Vaghela, a friend of the groom who was present at the spot, said.
“They (upper castes) also did not have any police permission to hold the yagna on road,” he said, adding that a number of people, including some policemen, were injured in the stone pelting.
According to Additional Director General of Police (Law & Order) Neerja Gotru, police resorted to lathicharge after the stone-pelting incident.
“The incident happened when a marriage procession (of Dalits) was passing through the village. Some havan was also going on the main road then an incident of stone pelting was reported following which the police had to resort to lathicharge,” Gotru told The Indian Express.
Aravalli Superintendent of Police Mayur Patil has reached the police to bring the situation under control.
“The Range DIG is on his way to the village. The Director General of Police has ordered to send a company of State Reserve Police to the Modasa village,” Gotru added.
On Dalit villagers’ allegation that the upper castes members had not take any police permission to hold yagna and havans on the main road of the village, Gotru said that they are trying to ascertain it.
Earlier in the day, the wedding procession of a Dalit youth at Sitvada village in Prantij tehsil of Sabarkantha district was held under police protection as they suspected possible assault by local upper castes.
“The dominating people of upper caste Thakor community were against us Dalits carrying out a marriage procession in the village. And therefore, suspecting any opposition or assault by them, we had sought police protection which was provided… Today, when the marriage procession was on its way in the village, some people tried to threaten us. So, we returned home and carried the wedding procession only after more police was deployed,” the groom’s father, Ramesh Rathod, told The Indian Express over phone.
The family has not decided on lodging a complaint with police, saying they were busy with the wedding.
Sabarkantha Superintendent of Police Chaitanya Mandalik also confirmed that some youths had made some remarks against the Dalits while the wedding procession was on. “Immediately, local leaders (of the Thakor community) intervened and they made those youths to leave the place. By this time, the DJ had run away. So, the Dalits said that they will restart the procession only after the DJ returns. So, the DJ was called back and the procession was started once again. It was just an issue of a few young men and nothing major,” Mandalik said, adding that no case has been registered.
“But if the Dalits of the village want to register a case, then it would be filed,” the SP said.
On Friday, a marriage procession of another Dalit youth, who is a police constable, was also held under police protection at Boriya which falls under the Sitvada gram panchayat.
The Sabarkantha SP said that the marriage procession at Boriya was held under police protection because the family was apprehending some problem from local upper castes. “However, the procession went off peacefully,” he added.
Earlier in the week, a marriage procession of a Dalit bridegroom riding a horse led to social boycott of the community by upper castes at Lhor village in Mehsana district. Based on the complaint of the bridegroom’s father, police had arrested five men, all from upper castes, including the sarpanch and deputy sarpanch of the village under different provisions of the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Indian Penal Code.
Last June, a marriage procession of a Dalit youth was carried out under police protection at Parsa village of Mansa taluka in Gandhinagar district after some locals from upper caste Darbar community objected to the groom riding a horse, and threatened them of dire consequences.
Three years ago, public flogging of Dalits in Una had led to a huge outrage with the then chief minister Anandi Patel promising quick justice. The case is still, however, under trial.