इंडियन आवाज़     02 Oct 2023 11:10:02      انڈین آواز

Dalits hold angry protests across Gujarat, Mevani detained


Dalits staged angry protests in different parts of Gujarat including Gandhinagar, Unjha, Chanasma and Patan in north Gujarat and Morbi in Saurashtra over the death of Vankar.

Road-blocks, burning of vehicle tyres and slogan-shouting were witnessed on several state highways and several parts of national highways. At some places, police conducted baton charges to disperse the crowds.

Vankar, 60, a Dalit had on Thursday set himself on fire at the Patan district collectorate demanding physical possession of land allotted to a Dalit family and was soon after hospitalized with critical burn injuries. He succumbed to his burn injuries on Friday night at a private hospital in Ahmedabad.

What led to widespread anger was that Vankar had resorted to self-immolation on the premises of Patan collectorate in the presence of police, ambulance and fire-fighters after a week-long notice to the authorities. He had been seeking physical and legal possession of the land allotted to the Dalit families by the state government for some time.

A delegation comprising the Gandhinagar Collector, Inspector General of Police and Social Empowerment Secretary have held talks with the Dalit activists and his family of Vankar. Although the government maintained that it accepted the key demands of the family, the Dalits wanted a categorical assurance in writing and that the state representatives only listened to them.

Ever since his death, an adamant Vankar’s family has been refusing to accept the dead body and put forth a charter of seven demands before the state government.

Ahead of the first budget session of the new Gujarat Assembly, Dalit leader and lawmaker Jignesh Mevani was detained by police here on Sunday amid state-wide protests against death of Dalit activist Bhanubhai Vankar.

Mevani broke into heated arguments with police when he was being detained in Saraspur suburb of Ahmedabad.

“Gujarat does not belong to your father… give me your buckle number, I am an elected MLA and you have no business to insult me,” a furious Mevani shouted at a police constable, after he and 100 others were detained.

When police was taking him out of his car, he claimed he was being manhandled and an elected legislator could not be treated like this. The MLA alleged the cops had barged into his car, pulled out the ignition keys and broke them.

Police denied the charges. Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, J.K. Bhatt told reporters: “It is wrong to say that police ill-treated the respected legislator and we will submit our report to the state Assembly about the incident.”

“He (Mevani) may have misbehaved but we have not. It is normal that there will be some arguments when a person is being detained by police,” he added.

Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel had told reporters on Friday: “We have agreed to all their major demands. We would legally transfer the land in name of the family Bhanubhai Vankar was fighting for, pay a compensation of Rs 8 lakh to the family of Vankar and transfer his family members, who are government employees, closer home.

“The government will also set up an inquiry commission headed by a retired High Court judge or a special investigation team, as agreed by the family of Vankar.”

Hardik Patel and OBC leader and Congress legislator Alpesh Thakor visited Vankar’s family and demanded firm action and justice to the community. Dhanani also called on the family and expressed solidarity the cause of the Dalits.

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