Updated: July 21, 2016 1:40:04 pm
The Gujarat bandh called by Dalit groups was near total Wednesday as protesters took to the streets, downing shutters, attacking public transport and halting trains and vehicle traffic. Police said Dalits groups clashed with police teams at several places.
Chief Minister Anandiben Patel met Balu Sarvaiyya who, along with his family members, was flogged by gau rakshaks on July 11 in Una in Somnath district but there was little respite on the streets where anger was directed at the authorities. Dalit and Muslim groups sought justice, handing memorandums to authorities at various places.
Police lobbed tear gas shells and lathicharged mobs in Dani Limda, a largely Dalit neighbourhood in Ahmedabad, while in Botad district, a Dalit youth doused himself with kerosene and tried to set himself ablaze outside the collector’s office.
Una town in Gir Somnath observed a shutdown and police were deployed in large numbers for the Chief Minister’s visit. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and NCP leader Praful Patel are also due to visit Una Thursday.
Admitting lapses in the Una case, Additional DGP V M Pargi (Law and Order) told reporters: “Sixteen persons have been arrested in the case and four policemen have been suspended. Had the policemen acted in time, things would have been different. But the state has taken all necessary action and transferred the case to CID for speedy investigation.”
He said the authorities had been appealing for peace since action had been taken against accused.
In Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Gir-Somnath, Bhavnagar, protesters forced closure of shops to enforce the bandh.
Gujarat police said at least 18 incidents of violence had taken place. In Vanthali of Junagadh district, ten buses were damaged while a private bus was set ablaze in in Porbandar and a DSP’s vehicle attacked.
Protesters halted trains in Vadhwan in Surendranagar and Botad. Several schools and colleges remained closed in the districts.
In Ahmedabad, safai karamcharis joined the bandh later in the day. The most affected area was the new west zone where 2,500 workers stayed away from work, Medical Officer (Health) Dr Bhavin Solanki said.
In Surat, hundreds of Dalits hit the streets near the textile market. Members of the Dalit Sena tried to enter the market to shut it down but were stopped by police.
Surendrangar collector Udit Agrawal said he got representations from Dalit organisations, AAP and Congress seeking action in the Una incident.
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