Dalit Woman Beaten to Death in Gujarat, Authorities Remain Elusive

Congress MLA Jignesh Mevani asserts that the goons have become courageous and the Gujarat government, as always, remains a foolish observer on the issues of the Dalits, the deprived and the exploited.
File photo from the hospital
File photo from the hospitalImage source- Jignesh Mevani's X handle

Bhavnagar, Gujarat- Despite the existence of concrete legal provisions, the spectre of casteism continues to cast its shadow over Dalit communities in India. Tragically, in Gujarat's Bhavnagar city,  on the 26th of November,   a day designated to celebrate the Constitution, a Dalit woman met a fatal end. Her crime? Refusing to compromise with the perpetrators who had allegedly assaulted her son three years prior. 

In a conversation with The Mooknayak , Dalit leader and Congress MLA Jignesh Mevani said, " This has become an order of the day. Gujarat has truly become a laboratory of Manuvad. You name the form of untouchability and caste violence you find happening in this "model state". Victims of caste violence keep asking for protection but nothing happens. You die, we don't care - is the attitude of bureaucracy and ruling dispensation." 

Four men, two of whom were previously accused of assaulting a Dalit youth named Gautam, three years ago, allegedly beat his mother to death. The victim, 45-year-old Geeta Maru, had refused to arrive at a compromise in the case lodged against the assailants. Following the brutal attack, three of the four suspects were arrested on Monday after a murder case was registered against them. The fourth accused is at large and police are trying to nab him, DySP RR Singhal told local media personnel, claim reports. 
According to the FIR filed at Bortalav police station, Geeta was purchasing bidi at a shop in Fulsar around 6 pm on Sunday when Shailesh Koli, Rohan Koli, and two unidentified men approached her. Armed with iron pipes, they allegedly subjected Geeta, to verbal abuse. Shailesh and Rohan proposed settling an old case out of court, stemming from a police complaint filed by Geeta's son Gautam three years ago.

In April 2020, Gautam, Geeta's son and a laborer in the construction industry, fell victim to an attack by Shailesh and Rohan. Subsequently, Gautam filed a complaint leading the police to register a case under sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The court's hearing had commenced in the case. 

Living in the same locality, the accused suggested an out-of-court settlement on Sunday, which Geeta rejected, leading to the assault. After the assault, Geeta was urgently transported to the state government-run Sir Takhtasinhji General Hospital by her husband Lakhu, employed as a labourer in a factory, accompanied by their daughter Anjali. Geeta's complaint resulted in the filing of a case under IPC sections 323 and 326 on Sunday, with a murder charge (Section 302) added on Monday following her death. 

Members of the Dalit community and activists staged a protest outside the hospital, Geeta's family initially refused to claim her body, insisting on the arrest of the accused first. After the arrest of three of the four suspects on Monday, efforts are ongoing to apprehend the fourth, police apprised the local media. The arrested individuals are identified as Rohan Koli alias Rohan Makwana, Akash alias Akelo Agrawat (22), and Jaydeep alias Bhuro Pathaya (23), all residents of Bhavnagar city.

Dalit leader and Congress MLA Jignesh Mevani asserted that the accused had been threatening the Dalit family to settle the old case out of court, especially as the court was about to commence the hearing. Gautam's family, steadfast in their pursuit of justice through the legal system, faced a tragic consequence as the accused allegedly launched a fatal assault on his mother. He said this shows how high the courage of the goons has become in the state and the Gujarat government, as always, remains a foolish observer on the issues of the Dalits, the deprived and the exploited.

Caste Dynamics and Legal Loopholes: An Analysis of Caste-Based Violence in Gujarat

In a study encompassing 3083 offenses across 13 districts of Gujarat, it was revealed that individuals from the Patidar and Koli Patels (Patels) comprised 34% of the accused, Kshatriyas accounted for 32%, and Brahmins were implicated in only 7% of the cases. This data sheds light on the diverse involvement of different caste groups in acts of violence against Dalits.

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that those found guilty are seldom promptly arrested, allowing memories of the crimes to fade by the time any punishment is meted out. Sharing his experience, an activist working with an Ahmedabad based Trust told The Mooknayak that the protracted and expensive legal procedures not only prolong the agony for victims but also contribute to a climate where culprits often remain in close proximity to their victims, intimidating them further. This was the situation in the Bhavnagar case too, as the perpetrators were neighbours of the victim's family. 

Despite the existence of the 1989 Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, designed to expedite legal proceedings through the appointment of Special Courts and Government Prosecutors, little improvement has been observed. The Act is frequently not implemented effectively by the police, with an application rate of just slightly over 60% in surveyed districts of Gujarat. Compounding the issue, police officers often exhibit a preference for certain sections of the Act, while at other times, only vague references are made, fostering a perception that Dalits are misusing the legislation.

The root of the problem lies in the lack of familiarity among police constables with the intricacies of the Atrocity Act. Additionally, their susceptibility to caste allegiance and bribery further hampers the effective implementation of the law, perpetuating a cycle of injustice for Dalits in Gujarat.

File photo from the hospital
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SSD Exposes Underreported Atrocities and the Failure of Authorities

Ragesh, a volunteer from Swayam Sainik Dal, a vast network of volunteer-based organization committed to raising awareness among marginalized communities in Gujarat, shared insights with The Mooknayak on the prevailing issue. He emphasized that in areas where Dalit and Tribal communities constitute the majority, such atrocities are less likely to occur. However, in sparsely settled regions, the upper castes often subjugate them. Ragesh lamented, "Even as we converse, somewhere a groom is being prevented from mounting a horse, a Dalit is being denied entry to a temple, or refused a simple haircut. What is reported, as in extreme cases like Geeta Ben's murder, is just the tip of the iceberg. Countless unreported incidents of harassment and atrocities are unfolding, and the ruling party has tragically failed in addressing the situation."

File photo from the hospital
SC/ST Atrocities Act: India's First Civil Society Audit, a Grim Revelation!

Bihar, Chhattisgarh & Gujarat Top the List for Rapes Against SC-ST Women

A ground breaking report recently surfaced on the 14th of October, conducted by the Citizen’s Vigilance and Monitoring Committee. This eye-opening report, a first-of-its-kind 'Citizen's Audit of the Union Report under Section 21(4) of The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989,' exposes the harrowing experiences of Scheduled communities across the nation.

According to it, recorded crimes against Dalits between 1992 and 2021 have been on the rise, with 2021 marking the year with the highest number of crimes, totalling fifty-nine thousand. Crimes against Adivasis have remained relatively steady over the past two decades, with 2021 recording eight thousand eight hundred and two cases. However, this stability is primarily due to the low rate of criminal charges filed in support of the tribal communities.

In total, there have been One million, two hundred six thousand, two hundred and sixty (1,206,260) recorded crimes against the scheduled communities between 1992 and 2021.

The report sheds light on disturbing trends observed in the year 2021. Twenty states and the Union Territory of Delhi reported inter-community crimes against Scheduled Caste women. Among these, rape is the most frequently recorded inter-community crime against Dalit women in the ten states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Uttarakhand. For Scheduled Tribes, inter-community rapes are most frequently reported in fourteen states, including Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Elusive Authorities: The Mooknayak's Attempt to Reach SP Harshad Kumar Patel and Seek Information Goes Unanswered

The Mooknayak attempted to call Harshad Kumar Patel, the Superintendent of Police in Bhavnagar, but his phone was unreachable, and he did not respond to the message sent to his mobile number. The Mooknayak also called the Bortalav police station to speak with the SHO; however, the constable who answered the call mentioned that the SHO had gone for a court appearance. When asked for the contact number of DySP RR Singhal, the cop shared the Control Room's number. However, no one at the control room cared to pick up the phone.

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