A policeman was killed in mob violence and a Dalit committed suicide on Tuesday as protests against last week’s thrashing of four youth in Una town snowballed across Saurashtra region of Gujarat on Tuesday.
The Dalit who died during the day was among the five persons from the community who tried to take their own lives in separate incidents in Gujarat.
Over a dozen people, including seven policemen, were injured in incidents of stone-throwing in Amreli. Head Constable Pankaj Amrolia later succumbed to head injuries, received during heavy stone-pelting by the unruly mob, at the Civil Hospital there.
Six other policemen received injuries of varying seriousness when they were trying to control irate groups of Dalits who took out a protest march in that town.
With five more cases of attempted suicide by Dalits reported on Tuesday, a total of 12 youngsters have tried to end their lives in the Saurashtra region in the last 24 hours.
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A Dalit youth who consumed acid in Bantva town of Junagadh on Tuesday succumbed at the Civil Hospital there. Authorities said Dilip Jesingbhai Parmar, Rasik Virabhai Vinjhuda and Dinesh Rajabhai Vegda were taken to the Junagadh hospital where one of them died.
Two youths tried to kill themselves in Gondal town, where five people had attempted suicide on Monday apart from two others in Jamkandorna, both in Rajkot district. They have been admitted to the Gondal Civil Hospital. Their identities could not be immediately known.
Dalit protesters set on fire three state transport buses, including two in Dhoraji and one in Dhrol near Jamnagar, and vandalised a telephone exchange in Rajkot.
A 2,000-strong mob also attacked two state buses in Amreli town in Saurashtra region.
The state government’s actions, appeals and assurances seem to have had no impact on the protesters. The government has initiated an inquiry by the Crime Investigation Department into the beating up of the four Dalit boys in Una town.
Chief Minister Anandiben Patel appealed for peace and reiterated that the government was committed to the protection of the Dalits in the state and said it had already suspended four police officials and arrested nine persons in the case.
For speedy justice, the government will set up a special trial court in consultation with the Gujarat High Court and file a charge sheet within 60 days.
Meanwhile, over 500 members of the Dalit community, including 40 members of the OBC Ekta Manch headed by Alpesh Thakore, were arrested from different parts of the state for indulging in violent protests.
Resorting to stone-throwing and sit-in, the protesters blocked traffic on the main highway to Rajkot and Jamnagar. The assistant locomotive driver of a train received head injuries when a mob rained stones on the train in Rajkot.
The state transport authority cancelled buses on several routes in Rajkot, Porbandar and Junagadh districts.
Large contingents of police and state reserve police have been deployed in several towns of Saurashtra region where shops and business establishments remained closed.
In all, 500 protesters were arrested from different parts of Saurashtra for indulging in violence, arson, stone-pelting and vandalising public transport buses.
Various Dalit organisations have called for a ‘Gujarat Bandh’ on Wednesday, even as several towns of Saurashtra observed a shutdown on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a delegation of the state Congress led by its President Bharatsinh Solanki and Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Shankersinh Vaghela presented a memorandum to Governor O.P. Kohli to condemn the government’s “failure” to prevent atrocities on Dalits.
Later, Vaghela told reporters that the Gujarat Congress will specially call its Vice President Rahul Gandhi to meet the Dalit youths who were beaten up and express solidarity with them.
He appealed to the Dalits in the state to maintain calm and said attempting suicide was not the right way to protest.