By Gautam Thaker*
In Gujarat, incidents of atrocities on Dalits are on the rise year after year instead of reduction in it. On an average, every year in Gujarat, about 20 dalits are killed and some 45 dalit women become victims of rape. As per statistics furnished by government, during the period of 2010-15, 130 murders of dalits, 336 rapes on dalit women and 5,628 cases of atrocities were registered.
Thus, on an average, every year, 1,100 dalits become victims of atrocities. Rape cases year-wise are 39 (2010), 51 (2011), 44 (2012), 70 (2013), 74 (2014), 58 (2015) and 27 (till April 2016). These are the statistics of dalit women and their family members who mustered courage to lodge complaint with the police station.
During last five years, in Gujarat, incidents of atrocities against dalits have been on the rise every year, instead of reducing. Apart from the Una episode, in 2012 three youths lost their lives in police firing in Thangadh of Surendranagar district.
The report of inquiry committee headed by the Government of Gujarat secretary has not been released. The CID Crime which was entrusted the inquiry has said, while presenting a summary report before the Gujarat High Court, that in this matter no one is found guilty of crime.
On May 22, 2016 a team of Gau-Rakshaks assaulted dalits in Rajula town of Saurashtra. On July 6, 2016, a dalit, Ramabhai Singarakhiya, was murdered at Sodhaana near Porbandar. On July 10, 2016, a dalit under-trial prisoner, Sagar Babubhai Rathod, died due to atrocities by the police. These incidents have yet to be inquired into.
For improving condition of dalits in Gujarat, special courts to deal with cases of atrocities on dalts should be setup, reservation policy in the state should be implemented and entire fund allocated in the budget for welfare of dalits should be fully utilized. Moreover, Gau-Raksha (Cow-Protection) Committees should be declared as illegal. The government should form a Task Force/Committee in Gujarat to thoroughly look into the hardships meted out to the dalits. This Task Force should be comprised of Collector, S.P., dalit Leaders and representatives from activists etc.
While the State and the nation are celebrating 125th birth anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, to make an on-the-spot inquiry in to the incidents of atrocities against seven dalit youths in broad day light and in the presence of police and the public, which took place on July 11, 2016 at Samadhiyala (Una) in Gir-Somnath district of Gujarat, a team of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Gujarat, under leadership of Manjula Pradeep (Navsarjan Trust), paid a visit on July 25-26.
The team consisted of Neeta Maadev (Gujarat Lok Samiti), Meenakshi Joshi (Movement for Secular Democracy), Govind Parmar (advocate and activist) and Babaria (activist and local leader). To assist them, activists Kantilal Parmar, Deena Vankar and Madhu Koradiya joined in.
After making spot inquiry, the team presented a detailed report and made special demands and recommendations before the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). It also presented its demands before the Gujarat Government and the Govenor of Gujarat. The demands were:
- To review the atrocities committed against dalits during last ten years, National Human Rights Commission should constitute a Task Force. A public hearing should be arranged on the atrocities committed against dalits in Gujarat by the NHRC only. The NHRC should ask the Gujarat Govt. to present a report showing the present condition of dalits. Moreover, NHRC should instruct the Gujarat Govt. to present a report on implementation of laws framed for protection of dalits.
- Cow Protection Forces working in Gujarat and all over the country should be declared as “illegal” and should be banned.
- NHRC should give direction to the Gujarat Govt. to present an action plan report about actions initiated and Action Taken Steps, for prevention of atrocities in 11 districts which have been declared by the Gujarat Govt. as “atrocity-prone”.
- For the episode of Una, the Gujarat government should form an inquiry committee consisting of two No. of honorable sitting judges of the High Court.
- Inquiry of this incident should be completed within sixty days and charge sheet be filed before the Court. For expeditious action, a special court may also be set up.
- In the Court, for defense on behalf of affected dalits, at least two reliable and expert lawyers should be engaged. Simultaneously police protection should be provided to the victims and their family members.
- For collecting of important evidences, a special committee, a Special Investigation Team, should be constituted by the N.H.R.C.
It is hoped and expected that if the Government of Gujarat wants to provide justice, it should resolve the issues such as migration by dalits, encroachment on land, offering land rights, and bring about an end to the evils like untouchability and caste discrimination in schools, at sources of drinking water, in temples. Issues like carrying of night soil over the head by manual scavengers should also be addressed.
*General Secretary, of People’s Union for Civil Liberties – Gujarat