Gujarat scrambled to contain Dalit protests Tuesday as they spread to Ahmedabad and several parts of the state, triggering violence in which a policeman was killed, state transport buses torched and roads blocked.
At least two more persons attempted suicide — seven tried to end their lives Monday — to protest the flogging of a Dalit family on July 11 for allegedly skinning a cow in Una in Gir Somnath district.
Promising strict action in the Una case and calling for calm, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel announced she would visit Balu Sarvaiya and his family members who were brutally assaulted by a gau raksha group and are now being treated at the Rajkot civil hospital.
In the first of a series of tweets, the Chief Minister said: “Seven more arrested in Una case, total 16 accused held till now. State govt is taking strict action against all accused.”
As Dalit groups called for a Gujarat bandh Wednesday, Congress leaders said Rahul Gandhi will be visiting Una Thursday to meet the victims.
The AAP said its leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal too will travel to Una Friday. The AAP also announced that the party would stage protests over the Una incident across Gujarat Wednesday.
Congress MP Ahmed Patel, appealing for peace, tweeted: “Failure of authorities to protect Dalits in Gujarat is absolutely shocking. Is it the Gujarat Model? Independent probe is need of the hour”.
Gujarat Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel, according to a PTI report from Udaipur, backed the protesting Dalits, saying they have faced exploitation and their demands are justified. Released after nine months in jail, Patel has to remain outside Gujarat for six months on court orders.
The RSS too stepped in, condemning the attack on Dalits as “an attack on the entire Hindu community which believes in peace and amity”.
RSS Gujarat prant sanghchalak Mukesh Malkan said “atrocities meted out to the Scheduled Caste brothers in the name of cow protection is extremely painful and condemnable. This kind of inhuman behaviour is a heinous crime and its perpetrators should be dealt with severely”.
The Gujarat chapter of Vishwa Hindu Parishad also issued a release, condemning the “atrocity” on Dalits by “some elements”.
Violence erupted Tuesday in Rajkot city, Rajkot district, Surendranagar, Amreli, Junagadh and Ahmedabad. Police said a mob hurled stones at a police patrol in Amreli. Constable Pankaj Rameshbhai Amreliya, one of those seriously injured in the attack, died in hospital later.
Additional DGP (Law and Order) V M Pargi said: “The constable was shifted to Rajkot civil hospital where he died.” He said violent protests were reported from other districts as well. P P Pandey, DGP in-charge, issued a statement, appealing to people to maintain peace.
In Ahmedabad, 40-year-old Mukesh Khodidas, a resident of Kalol in Gandhinagar, tried to commit suicide outside the collectorate and was taken to the civil hospital. In Biliyala village near Gondal, Bharat Boricha (35) attempted suicide by consuming a chemical substance in protest against the Una incident. He was sent to Rajkot for treatment.
On Monday night, mobs took to the streets and set ablaze state transport buses in Rajkot, Dhoraji and other towns of Saurashtra. In Surendranagar, a truckload of cow carcasses were dumped outside the collector’s office.
In Ahmedabad, OBC leader and convenor of OBC/ST/SC Ekta Manch Alpesh Thakor was detained along with his supporters outside the collector’s office where they were protesting against the Una incident.