Six members of a Dalit family were allegedly attacked by a group of 20 people (most of them reportedly Hindus belonging to upper-caste or OBC) on October 26 when they entered a Ram temple in the Bhachau taluka of Kutch, Gujarat. The Gujarat police have arrested five people in the case. Following the incident, the state government has announced that a total of Rs 21 lakh will be paid to the victims as assistance.
Pradeep Parmar, State Minister for Social Justice, said that the Bhupendra Patel-led government is ‘bound by a commitment towards maintaining social harmony’.
The incident took place on the morning of October 26, in which the accused fatally attacked the victims, inflicting serious injuries. All six of them were rushed to Bhuj’s Civil hospital. Two FIRs were filed in the case and over 24 hours after the incident, five accused were detained by the police. The remaining accused are still at large. The arrested accused have been identified as Kanabhai Koli (22), Naranbhai Aahir (36), Pababhai Rabari (35), Hemabhai Rabari (40) and Kanabhai S Koli (32).
Jignesh Mewani slams BJP government
The incident has reverberated across Gujarat prompting a sharp attack from MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani. Mewani slammed the BJP government and said, “The place where this incident took place, there are reserved seats for Dalits. Is this the India the BJP is talking about? Are we living in the 21st century? Don’t Dalits have the right to see God? In which India are we living?”
Reeling from backlash due to the barbaric incident, Pradeep Parmar, Gujarat Minister of Social Justice, said that Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel-led government is ‘bound by a commitment towards maintaining social harmony’. “Under his rule, no one should be subjected to such atrocities,” he said.
Devotion and division
On the fateful day, after offering prayers, Govind Vaghela’s family had just breathed a sigh of relief as it was not usual for Dalits to enter a local Ram temple without provoking the discriminatory beliefs of locals. However, their relief was short-lived as the situation soon took a horrendous turn when a mob attacked Vaghela’s family with pipes and axes. Moreover, Vaghela says they were tricked and a trap had been laid for their attack.
The 39-year-old says that on October 26, at around 10 am, he was informed that some stray cattle had entered his farmland and were destroying his crops.
“I left in an auto-rickshaw with my uncle Ganesh Vaghela. Upon reaching my farmland, I saw that the crops had been ransacked and a group of men were waiting underneath a tree holding axes, sticks and rods. They were led by one of the accused Kana Ahir who also belongs to my village. They started assaulting us with the weapons,” Govind said in his complaint.
“They asked us why we entered the Ram temple on October 26 when a ‘pratishthan’ ceremony was going on. They stole my cell phone and attacked the autorickshaw so that we couldn’t seek help and told me that they are going to the village to kill my father. My uncle and I sustained injuries on our heads and limbs and we were finally rescued by the police who took us to the hospital,” Govind added.
Taking cognizance of his complaint, two FIRs were lodged against 20 accused identified as Kana Ahir, Jeeva Ahir, Vela Ahir, Kesra Rabari, Arjan Rabari, Dinesh Balasara, Rajesh Balasara, Rana Balasara, Dinesh Ramji Balasara, Naya Ahir, Kana Koli, Bhanji Suthar, Rajesh Maraj, Dinesh Maraj, Paba Rabari, Chauda Koli, Sava Koli, Momaya Koli, Hema Rabari and Navgan Rabari under IPC sections 307 (attempt to murder), 323 (causing hurt), 324 (causing hurt by dangerous weapons), 452 (house trespassing for causing hurt), 120b (criminal conspiracy), 506 (criminal intimidation), 294b (obscenity), and sections of rioting and those applicable in the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe (prevention of atrocities) Act.