Home / Politics / Policy /  Protests against attack on Dalits in Gujarat spread, policeman killed

Ahmedabad: After the Patidar agitation that led to the deaths of as many as 10 people in August last year, the recent thrashing and stripping of four Dalits in Gujarat suspected of killing a cow is threatening to snowball into another challenge for the Anandiben Patel-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government as violent protests spread to different parts of the Saurashtra region on Tuesday.

Highways and state transport buses were blocked, while groups of protestors dumped carcasses of cows on the streets in different parts of the state, including one at the collector’s office in Surendranagar. A head constable of the local crime branch unit in Amreli died in a Rajkot hospital from injuries suffered during stone-pelting. The state reserve police force was deployed in Rajkot following incidents of stone-pelting in the city.

The police on Tuesday arrested seven people in connection with the assault, taking the total number of arrests to 16.

A statement late in the evening from the state information department said chief minister Patel will visit victims of the assault on Tuesday.

“There have been protests in some parts of Gujarat; however, the situation is under control. The state is taking all the necessary action to bring the guilty to book and restore law and order in the state. Arrests have been made and four police officials suspended. A charge-sheet will be submitted in 60 days and the CID has been roped in to investigate the matter," said Nitin Patel, a Gujarat government spokesperson and a cabinet minister.

Seven members from the Dalit community attempted suicide on Monday, while teargas shells were lobbed in Amreli and buses burnt in Rajkot and Porbandar.

On Monday, the chief minister ordered a probe by the CID, a special court to expedite the case and a special public prosecutor who will submit a charge-sheet in 60 days. The government also said it will pay Rs1 lakh each to the victims of the assault.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati raised the incident in the Rajya Sabha on the first day of the monsoon session of Parliament on Monday, citing “rising incidents of atrocities against the Dalits." The Upper House was briefly adjourned following sloganeering by BSP members.

A video showing the assault of the Dalits—they say they were skinning a carcass and had not killed the animal—in Una town in Gir-Somnath district went viral on social media last week. The video shows five-six people, who approached the victims in an SUV, questioning the Dalits on where they got the cow from and then stripping them and tying them to their vehicle.

On Twitter, Congress leader Ahmed Patel said: “Failure of authorities to protect Dalits in Gujarat is absolutely shocking. Is it the Gujarat Model? Independent probe is the need of the hour."

Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will meet the victims on 22 July, the party said in a statement to the media. The party is looking to contest the Gujarat state elections in 2017.

The latest development comes close on the heels of the release of Hardik Patel, who has been leading an agitation in the state demanding the inclusion of the Patidar community under the other backward class (OBC) quota. The Gujarat High Court last week granted bail to the 22-year-old in two cases of sedition and one of rioting, but asked him to stay away from the state for six months.

Patel launched the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) in May 2015 to demand reservations of seats in educational institutes and government jobs. The Leuva and Kadva Patels enjoy no quota benefits as their members are considered to be upper caste and have about 12-14% of the state’s vote bank.

Patel’s rally on reservation in Ahmedabad in August last year had sparked violence, killing at least 10 people, besides causing damage to public property and vehicles across the state.

The BJP lost local elections held in rural areas of Gujarat after the Patidar protests late last year.

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