Old enmity behind flogging of Dalit youths in Una: Fact-finding team

  • Kulsum Yusuf, Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
  • Updated: Jul 22, 2016 07:28 IST
Members of Dalit community block traffic during a protest in Ahmedabad. (PTI)

The real reason behind the brutal thrashing of four Dalit youths in Una of Gir-Somnath district that triggered massive protests across Gujarat and even reverberated in Parliament could be previous enmity, a fact-finding team of the Ahmedabad-based Dalit Adhikar Manch has said on Thursday.

The eight-member team that visited Mota Samadhiyala village near Una town told HT that the father of one of the assaulted youths had been threatened by the upper-caste sarpanch of the village of dire consequences if he didn’t stop trading in cow hide.

“Whatever business you are doing, stop it right now. Else, your dead cows will come alive and for that you have to pay heavily,” the sarpanch is reported to have told Balubhai Sarvaiya six months ago. The sarpanch had also threatened to demolish his house.

The four youths were on July 11 publicly flogged, a video of which went viral and triggered nationwide outrage. Angry Dalits have taken to the streets, torching buses and putting up road blockades. Normal life was also hit in Gujarat on Wednesday in response to a bandh call by several Dalit organisations.

An Indian Dalit woman waits for a relative's release from a police station after protestors were detained by police for damaging vehicles and disturbing peace, at Dholka town, some 40 kms from Ahmedabad on Thursday. (AFP)

Read: Conspiracy to grab land behind Una Dalit youth thrashing: Relatives

Balubhai told the fact-finding team that on the request of residents of two villages he had sent his son and three others to haul the dead cows from there. The youths were attacked after they had brought back the carcasses and were skinning them. The assailants came in two vehicles and were armed with sticks and iron pipes.

One of the vehicles had “President – Shiv Sena – Gir Somath” written boldly on its rear windscreen. Its registration number was stated to be DD 03 F 1294.

The men also used casteist abuses while flogging the youths, despite the four victims pleading repeatedly that they were only skinning dead cattle. When Balubhai and his wife came to know about it and rushed to the spot, they were also abused and beaten up.

Piecing together evidence from witnesses, the fact-finding committee said the police did precious little to rescue the youths. While they were being forcibly driven to Una after being brutally beaten, the vehicle was stopped by a police team. The assailants spoke to the policemen and were allowed to proceed. The police said visiting the spot was a priority for them.

Balubhai, the father of Dalit victims who was brutally assaulted by self-styled 'cow protectors' last week, at Mota samdhiyala village in Una, Gujarat on Thursday. (Arun Sharma/HT PHOTO)

Read: ‘Cultural practices of caste-Hindus obstructing justice for Dalits’

Dalit leaders say community members who constitute about 7 per cent of the state’s population are subjected to institutionalised caste bias. According to official figures, about 1,000 cases of atrocities on Dalits are reported every year in Gujarat. Figures also reveal that 50 Dalit women are raped and 200 Dalits are murdered on an average every year in the state.

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