Three Dalits,including two minors,died in two separate incidents of police firing near the Than police station in Surendranagar district. The first incident took place on Saturday night and the second one on Sunday evening.
The tragedy followed a clash between Dalits and members of Bharwad community over auctioning of stalls at an annual fair organised by the Than municipality. A Dalit youth was allegedly beaten up by the Bharwads on Friday after which the Dalits filed a complaint against them with the Than police station.
The following night,the two groups clashed again near the police station,according to Superintendent of Police Raghvendra Vats.
He said that soon the police intervened,following which the Dalits allegedly clashed with them. During the clash,sub-inspector K P Jadeja allegedly opened fire,injuring 17-year-old Prakash Amarsinh. The youth died at the Rajkot Civil Hospital.
There were just four or five policemen present during this incident,Vats added.
The SP said the two groups clashed with each other again on Sunday afternoon and when the police reached the spot,they allegedly pelted stones at them. The policemen again opened fire at the mob,killing two Dalit youths — Mehul (16) and Prakash (24) — and injuring one. The condition of injured Chhana Mauji Vaniya is said to be critical.Witnesses said Prakash was shot thrice.
According to Valjibhai Patel,a local activist,the situation remained tense in the town till late on Sunday as the Dalits refused to take the bodies and demanded stern action against sub-inspector Jadeja.
Rajkot Range IG Praveen Sinha said that hundreds of community leaders had converged at the Rajkot Circuit House and police were trying to pacify the angry Dalits.
In-charge DGP Chittaranjan Singh said that CID (crime) DIG R V Jotangia has been asked to investigate the incident. “He will probe if there was any negligence on the part of police and if it is proved,action will be taken against them,” said Singh.
While state Social Justice Minister Fakirbhai Vaghela he would be visiting the town,an inquiry has been initiated by the social welfare department under its secretary Sanjay Prasad,said sources in the government.
The government is suspecting ‘overreaction’ on the part of police. District Congress spokesperson Naushad Solanki blamed the police for the incident. He said Than Municipality chief Vasram Chavda,a Dalit,had complained against SI Jadeja allegedly for being anti-Dalit and had even staged protest against him. Subsequently,Jadeja was transferred last week,but he was yet to be relieved.
District Collector Pradeep Shah,however,said it was not a case of atrocity “but rather a law and order problem”.
The incident also affected railway traffic between Rajkot and Ahmedabad,which passes through Than,for several hours.