The police firing on dalits at Than town in Surendranagar district was the latest in a series of police atrocities committed on Scheduled Caste people in Gujarat. Most acts of police brutality towards dalits go unreported but even the five cases — including the Than incident — that were officially recorded in the last three months paint a sad picture of caste prejudice in the state.
In one incident which took place in Rajkot, the police lathicharged a rally of dalits and beat a girl so savagely that she had to be hospitalized for treatment of spinal injuries. Sadly, she is still in hospital. The Gujarat high court had, suo motu, issued notices to the police department in this connection.
In another case, a dalit youth was paraded naked in Ved village of Lunawada taluka in Panchmahals district. A Lunawada court took congnizance of the incident in favour of dalits.
In yet another incident that took place in Banaskantha district, the body of a youth who had died while in custody at the Pathawada police station, was kept in police custody for three days.
Police indifference to dalit suffering has driven many Scheduled Caste people to suicide. Recently, in Kelia Vasna village of Dholka taluka in Ahmedabad district, a dalit youth committed suicide in front of the Dholka police station after the police refused to register a complaint against his business partner.
His relatives say that the suicide note of the deceased youth was submitted to the police but it has gone missing.
FIRs and murder cases have been registered against policemen in two of the five cases mentioned above but this is unlikely to end the plight of dalits who, particularly in rural areas, live in constant
fear of police violence.
Talking to DNA, Manjula Pradeep executive director of Navsarjan, an NGO which fights for dalit rights, said that those who are supposed to enforce the law themselves seem biased against the Scheduled Castes.
“It seems the police decide as per their whim whom to protect and whom to ignore,” Pradeep said. She cited the incidents of Rajkot and Thangadh as instances where the police had used brute force against unarmed, innocent people.
Retired director general of police RB Sreekumar said that prejudice against dalits is common in the state’s police force.
“The law has many provisions to ensure dalits their rights. However, they continue to face problems mainly due to the ineffective implementation of the law,” Sreekumar said.
However, additional director general of police, SC-ST cell, Gujarat, Pramod Kumar, is not ready to accept this fact. He said that the SC/ST Cell of the Gujarat police takes cognizance of atrocities committed on dalits and investigates the incidents thoroughly.
Three dalits, including two underage boys, were killed in police firing at Than town in Surendranagar district. A murder and conspiracy case was registered against four police officials only after dalits took to the streets at several places to protest against the incident.
Police lathicharged a dalit rally against the murder of Gunwant Makwana, an SC leader. In the lathicharge, policemen beat up a young girl so savagely that she suffered spinal injuries. The girl is still in hospital. Gujarat HC had suo motu issued notices to police in the case.
Arvind Makwana, a Dalit youth, was paraded in his knickers in Ved village when he agitated against a retired police inspector belonging to an upper caste. Lunawada court has taken cognizance of the incident in favor of the Scheduled Caste people.
Arvind Chauhan, 27, a dalit youth, died in police custody at Pathawada police station in Banaskantha district. His body was kept in police custody for three days. Following an agitation, a murder case was registered against 4 cops, including PSI of Pathawada police station.
Kelia Vasna, Dholka
Dashrath Solanki, a dalit, committed suicide in front of the Dholka police station as the cops had refused to register a complaint against his business partner, Bhikhabhai Patel. Solanki’s relatives claim suicide note of the deceased was given to cops but is now missing.