Atrocities Against dalits Continue Unabated in Gujarat -Bharathy Singaravel
In 2019, the Gujarat government revealed a 32% rise in crimes against Scheduled Castes between 2013 and 2017, and a 55% rise in crimes against Scheduled Tribes for the same period.
On May 22, Jignesh Mevani, MLA from Vadgam, Gujarat, released a strongly worded statement on his Facebook page, following the killing of Rajesh Sondarva. Sondarva was a 21-year-old dalit murdered by upper caste Hindu men in Rajkot, Gujarat. Earlier in May, a village sarpach in the state’s Mehsana district issued a diktat for the social boycott of a dalit man and his family, because he rode a horse at his wedding. Mevani titled the statement: “Gujarat: Hell on Earth for Dalits and Adivasis”. He wrote: “In 2019, the Gujarat government revealed a 32% rise in crimes against Scheduled Castes between 2013 and 2017, and a 55% rise in crimes against Scheduled Tribes for the same period”. Mevani also reminded people that the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (PoA Act) had been enacted to ensure that state agencies could take proactive measures to prevent atrocities. He added that the Gujarat state government had failed to either take corrective measures or to ensure that the victims and their families get justice when crimes are committed against them. Speaking to Newsclick and the Indian Cultural Forum, Mevani said, “In the state of Gujarat there is a mindset among upper-caste people that absolutely nothing is going to happen to them even if they keep subjecting Dalits to violence, discrimination and brutality. So the strong message that should have gone from the administration, the police and the government has not gone at all. Rather, through callousness and indifference, the BJP government in Gujarat is telling upper caste people that it is only them that they stand for.”
After the results of the 2019 General Elections were announced, Modi made a speech about minorities to the NDA MPs. He said that minorities live in an “imagined fear, this imagined atmosphere and this environment of dread was created – thereby keeping them aside, keeping them repressed, and only using them during elections.” Modi’s staggering capacity for Newspeak aside, the reality he dismisses as a “myth” is quite dire. That is true of both the state he ruled as Chief Minister from 2001-2014 and the nation that he will take over for a second term.
Political figures like Jignesh Mevani who have fought for civil rights for years have a sobering side to tell. To understand the attitude of the government of Gujarat, Mewani says we have to take another look at the death of the Right to Information (RTI) activist Nanjibhai Sondarva. Nanjibhai was the father of Rajesh Sondarva. In May 2018, he was clubbed to death for filing an RTI application that sought details on financial irregularities for a road recently built to the village. The Manekawada village sarpanch was one among the accused. An article in CounterView written in the days following Nanjibhai’s murder, says that 11 RTI activists had been murdered for questioning the “Gujarat Model of Development”. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an independent international organisation, has been “mapping” the assault, harassment and killing of RTI activists based on news media reports. According to it, between 2008 and 2019, 45 incidents have occurred in Gujarat. 12 were murders and one was a suicide. Earlier this year, Scroll.in had taken a look at the steady attempts to dilute the RTI Act by the Modi government. It is an unhappy read.
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