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Ahmedabad: Mota Samadhiyala, a nondescript village in Una taluka in Gujarat, has taken political centre stage following an assault on four Dalits suspected of killing a cow, with proceedings in Parliament disrupted for a second day on Wednesday, and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal headed for the village.

While Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel visited the victims of the assault in a Rajkot hospital on Wednesday—a week after the incident took place—as well as their families in Una, Gandhi and Kejriwal will be visiting the state on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Ramdas Athawale, the Union minister for state for social justice and empowerment and a Dalit leader, is also expected to call on the victims this week.

“Atrocities on Dalit youth are not an event of gaining political mileage… Atrocity committed on Dalit youth is too much painful and undignified. Nobody involved in this torturous act will be spared," Patel said in Una. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief minister also instructed the local administration to arrange police protection for the families of the victims.

In Parliament, members of opposition parties including the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Left parties, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal disrupted Question Hour and raised slogans on Wednesday.

Home minister Rajnath Singh, speaking in the Lok Sabha, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly condemned the assault, and added: “Any atrocity against Dalits, irrespective if it is a BJP-ruled state or a state ruled by any other party, is unfortunate. Such incidents are a social evil that needs to be rooted out of our country."

Shaktisinh Gohil, a spokesperson of the Congress party and a member of the state assembly, said the incident “exposed the negligent and insensitive approach of the BJP government in Gujarat. On hearing that Rahul Gandhi was going to visit the families of the victims, chief minister Anandiben Patel rushed to Una nine days after the incident."

A Dalit leader gave the chief minister a 24-hour ultimatum to ensure justice is delivered. “If enough action is not taken in this time, then my outfit along with other outfits will block roads and bring life to a standstill in the state," said Subodh Parmar of the Dalit Adhikar Manch. Parmar, in a fact-finding report by his organisation, alleged that the attackers were supported by the local police and administration.

Call for bandh

Protests against the assault on four Dalits, who say they were skinning the carcass of a cow and had not killed the animal, continued amid a call for a bandh by the Dalit Panthers Sena, which describes itself as a revolutionary anti-caste outfit, and other Dalit organisations that was partly successful.

Parts of Saurashtra region, where the atrocity took place, remained tense as protestors pelted state transport buses with stones and torched around 10 vehicles. Many schools in the region remained shut, while the state reserve police force was deployed. In Ahmedabad, shops and other establishments in some areas were forced to down their shutters.

“Cow vigilantes"

A group of five or six people calling themselves the Gau Raksha Dal last week stripped and assaulted four Dalits they suspected had a killed a cow in Una, about 350km from Ahmedabad. The video, which shows them questioning the victims on where they got the cow from and stripping and thrashing them and then tying them to their vehicle, was taken by a member of the group and released “as a warning to others."

On Monday, as many as seven Dalits, including one Congress municipal councillor, attempted suicide in protest against the incident. One police constable from Amreli died from injuries suffered in protests that turned violent. Sixteen people have been arrested in connection with the case, and the chief minister has ordered a probe by the crime investigation department (CID), a special designated court to expedite the case as well as the appointment of a special public prosecutor who will submit a charge-sheet within 60 days.

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