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.
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.
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.