FOUR YEARS and still fighting for justice. Family members of three Dalit youths who were killed and one seriously injured in a police firing during a protest at Thangadh town in Surendranagar participated in the Dalit Maha Sammelan in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
Demanding speedy action and investigations by the CBI, the family members announced to sit on a dharna at Sector 3 near Secretariat in Gandhinagar from Monday.
On the intervening night of September 22 and 23, 2012, three Dalit youths — Pankaj Sumra (16), Mehul Rathod (16) and Prakash Parmar (24) — were killed in a police firing at Thangadh.
Expressing anguish towards the state government’s “unwillingness” to act against the accused, Gitaben Parmar (26), a Class IX drop-out and wife of Prakash Parmar, who was 24-year-old when he died in the firing, said, “I have a son who was five-year-old when his father died. With the death of my father-in-law seven months ago, we lost another male member in our family and with that a earning hand.
What can we expect from this government that failed to provide justice even after four years?”
The incident took place when the Dalits were carrying out a rally, demanding police action against some upper caste people who were allegedly involved in a scuffle during the annual Tarnetar fair. Police resorted to firing while trying to control a clash between groups belonging to the two communities.
The state government has not made public the inquiry report submitted by Principal Secretary Social Justice and Empowerment Department on May 1, 2013.
Manjuben Parmar (Prakash’s mother) too participated in the mass gathering. “After the incident, the state government assured us that it will support us financially. We do not need money but want justice and our rights,” she said.
Mehul Rathod’s mother Chandrikaben, accompanied by her husband Valjibhai, told The Indian Express: “Dalits across the state are frustrated by the state government’s attitude. Be it the Una case or our Thangadh case, everyone is demanding a CBI investigation because we know the state government will never provide justice to Dalits.”
Baluben, the mother of another victim of the police firing Pankaj Sumra, said: My son was in Class XI when he was killed. The case should be re-opened and the investigations should be handed over to the CBI.”
Not limited to Thangadh
Cases of discrimination were shared by others who had gathered at Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati area to participate in the event. Maulik Jadhav (19), a resident of Valthera village in Ahmedabad district, said, “In 2014, when I was in Class XII, some students from upper caste started harassing me and sending me derogatory SMSes about my caste. When my father and I complained against them, we were beaten up badly. A police case was registered at Kot police station, but still we are threatened and asked to withdraw the case.”
Bhikhabhai Sarvaiya (49) and Narainbhai Babriya (40), who had reached Ahmedabad from Gir Somnath’s Gundala village, a neighbouring village of Mota Samadhiyala where the Dalit flogging incident happened on July 11, said, “The discrimination is not limited to Mota Samadhiyala, but it is widespread in all the 182 villages in Una taluka. Untouchability is so deep rooted in our villages.”
Representing Dr Babsaheb Ambedkar Vichar Manch, Godhra, Harish Jadhav (31) said: “Dalits are not allowed to cremate at the village cremation ground. Last year, at our village Mehlol, a Dalit was cremated on the road because his body was not allowed at the cremation ground.”
“When we buy milk or any other thing from provision shops, shopkeepers ask us to throw the money at them… they do not take it from our hands,” said Sachin Solanki (25), who had reached the venue from Keshod in Junagadh district.
Dalsukhbhai Jhala (48) from Raisanghpar village from Surendranagar said: “Dalits are not allowed to enter temples. People from upper caste do not want touch us. At schools, our children are made to sit separately when mid-day meal is served.”
From tribal-dominated district of Banaskantha, Manubhai Parmar (23) said at his Vada Kankrej village people from Scheduled Caste are not allowed take drinking water from the source used by upper caste villagers.
I-T official from Delhi to spread awareness
Preeta Harit, Income Tax commissioner, Delhi, and also national president of Bahujan Samyak Sangathan, an organisation working against Dalit discrimination, was also present at the Maha Sammelan. However, when members of her outfit were distributing phamphlets, slogans were raised against her.
Unable to address the gathering, she left the gathering in 30 minutes. “There was a lot of mismanagement… I wanted to speak but I was getting late for Dhoraji… we would meet the family of the Dalit youth who died today after he consumed poison during the protests.”
“I am here to cover Gujarat. I will visit Una, Vadodara, Palanpur, Anand and other areas spreading awareness for their rights among Dalits in the state,” she added.