By Kantilal Parmar*
Cases of forced migration of Dalits from Gujarat’s villages continue to pile up, even as indifference on the part of the Gujarat administration appears to have become even more visible. Though an incident of forced migration of Dalits of Bhodadal village, Ranavav taluka, Porbandar district, was reported to the Gujarat police on December 18, 2013, and complaints about this were lodged to the district collector, Porbandar, the district superintendent of police (DSP), the backward class welfare officer, the Gujarat chief minister, the director general of police, the state home minister, the state social justice and empowerment minister, and the secretary, social justice and empowerment, the 13 persons were forcibly displaced after their houses were destroyed have not been rehabilitated.
Finding that things have failed to move, Navsarjan Trust, the Dalits rights NGO of Ahmedabad, filed a complaint with KG Balakrishnan, chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), New Delhi, to look into the matter. The NHRC promptly moved to ask the Gujarat administration to provide an action taken report within four weeks of the receipt of the order. The reason for the NHRC’s prompt action was not far to seek – the Dalits, whose houses were destroyed, lived on the spot for more than a century. However, some members of the Ahir community reached the spot with JBC machines and destroyed four houses where family member of a Dalit resident, Markhibhai Dudhabhai Badva, lived.
Following this, all members of Badva’s family – 13 of them – were forced to migrate to Roghada village in the neighouring Kutiyana taluka. Among those who are involved in the incident include senior member of Bodhadal panchayat. The NHRC has sent its notice, to the district magistrate, Porbandar, and the district police chief. The police, significantly, refused to take a complaint under the anti-atrocities law, while the local administration justified destruction of the four Dalit houses as part of its effort to remove encroachments on common village land. The incident took place despite a warning issued by the Porbandar district collector over a village panchayat resolution for carrying out the anti-encroachment drive, saying it would lead to serious law and order problems.
Government documents show that the Dalits were handed over 20 sq metres of land to construct the houses under the Indira Awas Yojna, for which the government promised to provide sufficient subsidy to each famy. The houses were allowed to be built because the Dalits’ houses were destroyed during the earthquake on January 26, 2001. The destruction of the houses is a serious violation of human rights. Involved in the incident, deputy sarpanch Lakha Rajshi Bheda and panchayat member Kamlesh Meraman should be removed from their post. The state government must take steps against the local police officials who did nothing to ensure that the situation did not go out of hand.
* Activist, Navsarjan Trust