Several parts of Gujarat are gripped with massive protests by Dalit community members over last week’s barbaric flogging incident of four Dalit youth by a cow vigilante group in Una. The matter even echoed in both the houses of Parliament, with Upper House seeing repeated adjournments on Wednesday as unrelenting opposition foisted unity to corner the government.
With the incident continuing to draw widespread condemnation, the ruling BJP government in the state has now begun to feel political heat.
Senior NCP leader Prafful Patel slammed Chief Minister Anandiben Patel over the delay in action against the culprits as he visited the victim’s family in Una early on Thursday.
Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi too met with the victim’s families in the afternoon after which he also met with the victims undergoing treatment at Rajkot hospital.
“We narrated to him (Rahul) what happened with my cousins and uncle. He listened to us patiently and assured us all help so that we can get justice,” Jitu Sarvaiya, a cousin of the victims, told reporters after Gandhi left.
“We demanded from him that those who were involved in the incident should be given exemplary punishment and kept behind bars for their entire life or else they will once again do this to someone else,” he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, more Dalit youth attempted suicide as the protest intensified after the state-wide bandh called by several Dalit organisations. The incidents were reported from districts of Rajkot, Porbandar, Botad and Gir-Somnath, taking the total number of attempted suicide cases to protest against the flogging incident to 17.
In one case, a dalit protester Paresh Rathod tried to immolate himself but was saved by police in Botad town.
According to reports thus far, the protests have spread out from parts of Saurashtra to several other parts of the state including Ahmedabad. State transport buses have been attacked across the state, while some highways were blocked by the protesters.
Meeting the members of victim’s family at Mota Samadhiyala village in Una, CM Anandiben Patel on Wednesday promised all possible help. Jittery with the developments across the state and visits by the opposition camp politicians, she said that the issue should not be politicised.
“Such incidents should never be associated with politics. I request all the political parties to refrain from doing politics…Those who want to come can come and see what has happened and what steps we have taken,” she said, referring to the planned visits of Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders
Anandiben Patel later visited Rajkot Civil Hospital and made inquiries about the treatment of four victims and directed hospital authorities to provide best possible medical treatment to them.
Four Dalit youth were flogged in public last week by a group of men claiming to be members of cow protection vigilante group in Una district of Gujarat. The self-styled group alleged the four victims of killing a cow, while the latter contended that they were only skinning a dead cow and had not killed it.
Sixteen persons have been arrested in this case so far, while four policemen are suspended for dereliction of duty.