A day after four Dalit men were allegedly opened fire on over a land dispute in Gujarat, the Local Crime Branch (LCB) arrested two men late Wednesday evening.
A mob had allegedly gathered near an agricultural farm on which few Dalits were working, in Mevasa village of Kalayanpur taluka in Devbhoomi Dwarka district, on Tuesday evening. The mob reportedly threatened the Dalits to vacate the land and then opened fire on them. In the firing, Kiran Rathod (21), his younger brother Rahul (18) and two other family members—Dadu Rathod (23) and Raju Rathod (35)— were injured. The quartet sustained gunshot injuries on their shoulder, chest, head etc, police say, and were rushed to a government hospital in Khambhaliya. They were later referred to GG Hospital in Jamnagar.
The incident occurred on the first anniversary of the alleged assault on Dalits by gau rakshaks in Mota Samadhiyala village of Una taluka in Gir Somnath district. The cow vigilantes had assailed the Dalits and flogged them, accusing them of slaughtering a cow. However, the Dalits had claimed that they were merely skinning a cow carcass.
In his complaint, Kiran had named Mashri Gadher, Mulu Goriya, Yogesh, Vajshi Goriya and a mob of around 25 to 30 other men as accused. Kiran stated in his complaint that they had a dispute going on with Gadher over 32 bigha of land they owned in Mevasa village and with an intent to evict them from that land, the accused came to the field with other men in five vehicles and fired on the Dalits while they were working on the farm. Based on his complaint, Kalyanpur police had booked Gadher, a native of Mevasa but now residing in Bhatiya village of Kalyanpur, Mulu, Yogesh and Vajshi, a resident of Mahadeviya village in Kalyanpur for attempt to murder, rioting and under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and under Arms Act. The probe was handed over to Ramesh Patel, deputy superintendent of police (SC/ST cell) of Devbhumi Dwarka district.
Around 24 hours after the incident, the LCB picked up Gadher and Vajshi while they were driving on the Bai village approach road on Khambhaliya-Dwarka state highway at around 9 pm on Wednesday. “We had a tip off that the accused were in that area and we nabbed them while they were driving on a village road,” SK Mehta, police-sub inspector of the LCB said on Thursday.
The LCB then handed the duo over to DySP Ramesh Patel who formally arrested them late on Wednesday night. “We also recovered a double-barrel gun and four live cartridges from the accused. The Bolero car in which they were driving has also been seized and efforts are on to ascertain its ownership,” the DysP told The Indian Express.
Patel, however, clarified that the double-barrel gun was not used to shoot the Dalits. “This gun was not used in the firing on Dalits. Prima facie, Gadher had used a country-made gun for opening fire on Dalits. We are yet to recover that firearm and establish as to how many rounds were fired,” he said.
The DySP said that the Dalits had sold the land in question. “Primary investigation has revealed that the land in question had been allotted to Dalits by state government. Subsequently, the Dalits sold that land. However, then they sought to regain the possession of the same land, leading to a dispute. We are also going through revenue records to know the fact,” said Patel.
The IO added that in their statements, the witnesses of the incident has stated that not a mob of around 30 persons but only 11 men had gone near the disputed land on Tuesday evening in two Bulero cars, had threatened the Dalits of dire consequences of if they continued working on the land and had then opened fire.