Dominant-caste mobs allegedly attacked scores of Dalits on their way back from a mega gathering in south Gujarat’s Una town on Monday afternoon, triggering tensions in the area.
A group of Dalits who had come to Una from Haryana were allegedly assaulted by at Samter village by men from the dominant Durbar caste, sources said.
The mother and brother of Rohith Vemula – a PhD scholar whose January suicide sparked nationwide protests – also narrowly escaped an assault on the Una-Somnath highway, 20 kilometres from the venue of the protest, Rohith’s brother Raja Vemula told HT.
They were surrounded by a mob at an eatery on the highway but managed to get into their car and speed off, he added.
“We are not able to go home. All our brothers and sisters who had come to support us are being attacked,” said Balubhai Sarvaiya, one of the victims of the July 8 thrashing who had come to Una for the meeting.
Similar reports of attacks were reported from other parts of the district.
Thousands of Dalits had poured in from all over India for a meeting to mark their protest against caste discrimination and the flogging of four men from the community by alleged cow-protection vigilantes on July 8. They were on their way back home after the meeting on Monday afternoon, when the assaults were reported.
Many people took shelter in the local police station and demanded protection from the forces to go back home. HT tried to enter the local police station to get a comment but was stopped at the entrance. Lawyer-turned-activist Jignesh Mewani and other organisers of the meeting confirmed at least two attacks and were negotiating with the police.
The meeting at Una was the culmination of a 10-day, 350-kilometre march that has galvanized the Dalit community in the state. The thrashing of July 8 was recorded on video, which went viral and sparked widespread protests across Gujarat.
Many Dalits demanded their rights and swore off occupations such as skinning of cows that they’re forced to do. They have also demanded five acres of land for every member of the community. Experts say these demands and the political assertion have angered the dominant-castes, who feel short-changed.