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Under-fire state wary of violence rerun

On first day of Winter Session, Patil struggles to control fallout.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2006 04:20 IST

With Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s 50th death anniversary on December 6 promising to be a massive show of Dalit strength, an embattled state administration scrambled to put in place tough security measures.

With the Opposition stalling proceedings over the massacre of a Dalit family in Khairlanji, 1,000 km east of Mumbai, in the winter session of the state Legislature and one of the government’s own agencies blaming the local administration for handling the case ineptly, a worried Democratic Front went into damage control mode on Monday. Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil, who holds the home portfolio, admitted to mistakes by the police, but added, “They were corrected later. Six officials were suspended; they will now be dismissed.”

The report by Yashada, a government agency in Pune, has further turned up the heat on the government. It recommended an inquiry against all officers
concerned.

The Yashada probe was commissioned by its director general Ratnakar Gaikwad. The report alleged that the police not only neglected phone calls when the incident occurred on September 29, they also did not take prompt action when a first information report was filed.

The killings preceded the mishandling of violence by Dalits across the state. While Dalits — the ruling parties’ traditional votebank — are angry with the government, non-Dalits are miffed that violence is not being dealt with sternly enough.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. Elections to municipal councils and zilla parishads (district councils) will be held in the next three months.

In this backdrop, Ambedkar’s death anniversary will be projected as a show of strength by Dalit leaders. Lakhs will throng Chaityabhoomi at Dadar to pay tribute to their late leader. The administration is taking no chances, beefing up security as a precaution against violence of the kind witnessed last week across the state.

Ketaki Ghoge/Sarita Kaushik/Satyajit Joshi