As efforts continue to integrate the denotified nomadic tribes of Gujarat into the mainstream of rural life, the Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch finds that the process is not without hurdles. A writeup based on its latest experiences:
In recent months, the Vicharta Samuday Samarthan Manch (VSSM), which takes up the cause of the denotified nomadic tribes of Gujarat, has been actively pursuing the issue of unwanted demands from the police and unnecessary harassment inflicted upon the Dafer families living in various pockets of the state. It has been speaking to the police authorities, society and the administration on the issue. It has received some positive response, but not without disturbing tendencies. At least in one case, police officials showed their commitment to redress the complaints. Recently, senior police officials of Bhavnagar district visited few of the Dafer settlements, giving a patient hearing to the complaints of Dafer even against the local cops, from whom they face maximum harassment.
One of the Dafer settlements they visited was of Advada settlement in Ahmedabad’s Dhadhuka taluka. They spoke to the local authorities to do the needful to fulfill the primary needs of the families. They were promised, they would be given ration cards. But this has sent the warning bells across Advada. On July 27, 2014, dominant sections of the village sent a word to the Dafer families to pack their stuff and leave the village immediately. The Dafer families have been guarding the boundaries of Advada for many years. In 2007, when the VSSM initiated the process of issuing voter ID cards for these families, the same dominant sections of the village tried to push them out.
The Dafer families returned in 2009 for guarding village boundaries, as they have no other alternate source of livelihood. They were left with no option but to go to the people who call them. The dominant sections of the villages wanted the Dafers to guard their village – but they live at a distance. They were allowed to work but could not have the benefit of staying within the village. These dominant sections’ main argument is that these families do not belong to the village. In fact, there was a time when no nomadic tribe belonged to the village, one reason why they were not allowed to settle down. In fact, in the past, the nomads never felt the need to settle down in a village or remain confined to one place. But now times have changed.
This type of harassment is common at various settlements, and the result is, often, local cops intervene in favour of dominant sections. This is what happened on July 26, 2014, the Dafer families, responsible for guarding the Veed (grazing land for cattle) of the cow shelter of Jivapur and Bhilwada villages in Palitana block of Bhavnagar district: Policemen entered their settlement. They were from the local crime branch. “Give us weapons you possess”, the men in uniform demanded. The leader of the settlement Razakbhai and others from the settlement tried talking to the police. “We guard the Veed of cow shelter run by the Mahajans (prominent business community), how can we possess weapons? You may ask our employers if we use or possess weapons”, Razakbhai said, adding, “Gone are those days when Dafers with weapons they possessed looted the people around.”
However, the police was in no mood of listening. They ordered them to come to the police station with their weapons by July 28. If failed to so, they were told, they should be prepared to face the consequences. This was such a contrast: On one hand the police along with the VSSM were making efforts for the rehabilitation of Dafers at one place, but at another, the local cops were using their tactics of harassing the innocent Dafer families. The Dafer men were merely guarding the grainy land of a cow shelter, yet they were asked to be present at the police station with weapons they never owned.
Since these men did not have any weapons, they did not know what should they present and why should they go to the police station. Razakbhai sought VSSM’s advice. He was told to ignore the police direction. They did exactly what they were asked to do. The repercussion of disobeying the police demand was felt on the very same day. The police came to the settlement, arrested 22-years-old Dawood, and before anyone could intervene, and left from the scene.
Though the VSSM spoke to the senior officials of Bhavnagar district, the local police was very swift in the case. Before any action could be taken in the matter, the cops presented Dawood before the court on July 29 morning. The court was told that they had found Dawood in possession of weapons, and even presented a weapon that claimed to have been found with Dawood. Finally, Dawood was released on bail. They instructed him to not to utter a single word before the judge, or else he would be taken for remand. The VSSM is unaware of what charges have been framed against Dawood, one just has to wait and watch of how the case progresses to see the high-headedness of the police.
Culled from http://www.nomadictribes.blogspot.in/