CM meets Dalits; sporadic protests, partial shutdown in Gujarat

Ahmedabad, July 20 (IANS) Different regions of Gujarat observed sporadic protests and partial shutdowns on Wednesday to air anger over atrocities on Dalits as Chief Minister Anandiben Patel visited the village of four Dalit youth beaten up in Una town on July 11 for skinning a dead cow.

No untoward incidents nor attempts at suicide by Dalits were reported from the state during the ‘Gujarat bandh’, the call for which was given by various Dalit organisations.

Many state transport buses were, however, cancelled or their routes diverted and many schools remained shut, especially in the Saurashtra region.

Shops and office establishments remained open for a while in the morning hours while demonstrations continued across the region.

In protest against last week’s thrashing of the four Dalit youths in Una town of Saurashtra, 12 youngsters across the region had attempted suicide and one of them died on Tuesday.

A head constable in Amreli too succumbed on Tuesday evening to head injuries sustained during stone-pelting by a mob.

The Chief Minister landed at the Diu airport on Wednesday morning and drove to the Mota Samadhiyala village in Una taluka of Saurashtra region to meet the families of the four Dalit youths. They broke down on seeing Anandiben at their doorsteps.

After meeting them and holding discussions, Anandiben claimed all 25 Dalit families in the village were satisfied with the government’s action in the assault case.

Besides aid, she said, the Gujarat government will provide financial help to these families for the construction of houses and toilets. A special camp will be held to ensure they get benefits of all government schemes. Dalit children studying in Class 5 and above will be enrolled in government model schools for free.

Anandiben said she had ordered the district administration to complete these tasks in a month’s time and that she will revisit the place after two months to monitor the progress.

She said police protection has been ordered for families of the four youths. They had complained of threat calls. “Such calls are being recorded and whosoever is responsible will be arrested,” Anandiben said.

Asked why the benefits of government schemes had not reached the Dalit families, the Chief Minister said it was the responsibility of the local legislators, village heads and other panchayat functionaries.

About the proposed visits of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and other political leaders in Gujarat, Anandiben said they should not give a political colour to the whole issue.

The Chief Minister was accompanied by Social Justice Minister Ramanlal Vora, Chief Secretary G.R. Aloria and minister Jashabhai Barad, among others. She also went to the Civil Hospital in Rajkot to ask after people injured in violence subsequent to the beating incident.

The Gujarat government has ordered a CID-Crime Branch inquiry, formation of a special designated court in consultation with the high court and filing of a chargesheet in 60 days in the case of assault on the four Dalits. So far, 16 persons have been arrested.

–IANS

desai/tsb/vt

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