Updated: August 10, 2016 2:22:45 am
HUNDREDS OF Dalits sat on relay hunger strike in Amreli for the second consecutive day on Tuesday to protest “police atrocities” against them for allegedly stoning a policeman to death during the violence following the Una incident in which seven members of a Dalit family were beaten up for skinning a dead cow. Out of the 16 Dalits named in the FIR for the alleged murder of a head constable named Pankaj Amreliya, seven have been arrested. Kanti Vala, the main accused in the case according to police, was sent to judicial custody by a local court as his two-day police custody ended Tuesday. As police did not seek his further remand, he was sent to judicial custody by the court.
Vala was arrested by Amreli police from outside PDU General Hospital on Saturday. He was also injured in the violence on July 19 and had been undergoing treatment since. Six persons, including two women, were arrested earlier. All of them are in judicial custody.
About 200 Dalit men and women sat in Rajmahel compound opposite the office of Amreli district collector for the second day even as president of Gujarat Dalit Sangathan, Jayanti Makadia, and convenor of Saurashtra Dalit Sangatha, Deven Vanvi paid them a visit and expressed their support. The protesters had started the relay fast on Monday under the banner of Amreli Jilla Dalit Samaj to protest what they termed “atrocities against Dalits”. The family members of some of the 16 Dalits named in the FIR by police were among the protesters.
“The constable was killed after falling off the police vehicle and was not stoned to death as has been stated in the FIR. Besides the 16 persons named in the FIR, a mob of 700 Dalits have also been named as accused. Dalits of the district are living in fear as they apprehend police may arrest them. It is an atrocity that Dalits have been booked for murder though the constable was killed in the accident.
Therefore, the families of those who have been named and those who apprehend arrest have started this fast,” said Dhiru Khitoliya, one of the Dalits leading the protests. Khitoliya is also president of Rashtriya Dalit Hit Rakshak Sangh, a group of Dalits working to protect the rights of their community.
Amreliya was injured during the violence on July 19 when Dalits took out a rally to protest the alleged flogging of seven Dalits in Una taluka of Gir Somnath district on July 11. He had died in a Rajkot hospital the same day. Based on a complaint filed by Amreli city police inspector H M Ramavat, Amreli city police had booked 16 persons and a mob of 700 for murder and rioting.
However, in a memorandum submitted to district collector Dilip Rana on Monday, protesters demanded quashing of the FIR, stating that it was false. The memorandum also demanded booking Ramavat for filing the “false” complaint and thereby committing atrocity against the Schedule Caste members. Their other demands included handing over the probe to CID (crime), taking action against the accused of the alleged attack on Dalits while they were skinning a dead cow in Rajula taluka of Amreli and the alleged murder of a Dalit youth in Dedan village of Khambha. They also demanded that the family members of a girl, who was allegedly raped in Vadli village of Rajula, who have been camping outside the collector’s office for the last six months, be declared displaced.
But police say they had evidence against the accused. “We have eyewitness statements saying stone-pelting had happened during the rally on July 19 and that the accused were present in the mob. We are in the process to identify them,” said Amreli circle police inspector Pravin Chaudhari, who is investigating the case.
District collector Dilip Rana said the district administration had tried to persuade Dalits not to go on fast. “Resident additional collector held a meeting with their leaders on Sunday and asked them not to go on fast. They also came to me on Monday and claimed that the FIR was false. I told them police will conduct a fair and impartial probe. Police have CCTV footage and call detail records. But we assured them that only those who are suspected to have been involved in the crime will be arrested. We accepted most of their demands but they still went ahead with the protests,” he said. Rana added that the case of Vadli family had been reported to the government and a decision on declaring them displaced was expected soon.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.