A Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation (GSRTC) bus driver, a Dalit, has alleged that he was assaulted by a BJP leader in Surat city, as he did not give way to the latter’s vehicle due to traffic bottleneck. Hitesh Rathod, the bus driver, and Jitu Patel, Varachha area BJP general secretary, have lodged a complaint and counter complaint at the Varachha police station, police said.
Rathod, a resident of Mandarwaja area in Surat, works as a driver with GSRTC’s Songadh depot in Tapi district. On September 6, he was driving the bus (GJ-18Y-9473) from Songadh to Surat depot. After dropping the last passenger at Surat depot, near the railway station, Hitesh was taking the bus to the GSRTC workshop.
According to sources, when the bus was passing through the railway culvert to reach the GSRTC workshop, Jitu Patel tried to overtake the bus, but he could not do so due to the traffic. Meanwhile, Rathod reached the workshop and before he could alight from his cabin, Patel entered the cabin and started punching and kicking him.
Rathod stated in his complaint to the police that Patel first asked him his name and “used derogatory words to abuse my caste,” then showed his BJP identity card. Later, Patel allegedly dragged Rathod to the depot manager R B Gitte’s office. Some drivers and GSRTC employees tried to intervene and separate the duo.
At the depot manager’s office, Patel introduced himself as a BJP leader (general secretary) of Varachha and pressurised Rathod to tender an apology. Meanwhile, Kaushal Desai, general secretary of GSRTC Employees’ Union, affiliated to the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), and other union members — Ambadan Gadhvi, Karshan Patel, Navneet Champaneria, P C Lad, Kishor Gandhi and Abdul Rashid Shaikh — tried to pacify Patel, but he didn’t budge.
Then they called up the police control room for help only to find Patel taking his heels.
A fortnight after the incident, Jitu Patel moved the Varachha police station on Friday, requesting to register a complaint against Kaushal Desai and Abdul Rashid Shaikh, alleging that both of had misbehaved with him and also threatened to kill him in the depot manager’s office.
Later in the night, Hitesh Rathod, in his counter complaint to Varachha police station, sought to register an FIR against Jitu Patel for using casteist abuse and threatening to kill him.
Talking to The Sunday Express, Jitu Patel said, “I just went to the depot manager’s office with Hitesh Rathod to complain against him. Both Kaushal Desai and Abdul Rashid Shaikh, misbehaved with me and even threatened to kill me.”
When contacted, union leader Kaushal Desai said, “Jitu Patel was trying to pressurise the authorities by showing off his power. He was at fault as he had beaten up the bus driver and even used derogatory language to abuse his caste. Patel also threatened us that he will not allow us to work in Varachha area for supporting our union member.”
Varachha police inspector C K Patel said, “On Friday, we have received applications from both the parties, seeking to register cases. We will take statements of both the parties and then we will act accordingly.”