Friday, August 31, 2012

Threatened, Guj Dalits get 24x7 police cover

Facing constant harassment and threat from upper castes, Dalits in 17 villages of Gujarat have been dependent on 24X7 police security for years — but that’s hardly a relief as it takes away their freedom.
“Dalits who raised voice against the upper castes were either killed, assaulted, threatened or even socially boycotted. Many Dalits have to take the police help to live in their own villages,” Shankar Shenva, a Dalit who was boycotted for several days, told DNA. These are families who have been living under threat for decades.
Banaskantha, Rajkot, Junagadh, Sabarkantha and Anand are few districts wherein Dalit families in 17 villages are forced to live with the police escorts, an RTI application has revealed. The numbers of such villages was 20 before December 2011, however the security provided to two villages in Jamnagar and one in Sabarkantha was withdrawn, due to a settlement among the communities.
Speaking to DNA, Navsarjan programme director Kirit Rathod, who had filed the RTI plea, said the security to the Dalit families cannot be withdrawn because the upper caste members are still not ready to accept them. They didn’t even allow them to live in their villages. He said some families have been provided security for since 1997.
In most of the cases, the security has been provided when the Dalits were attacked by other community members more than once. “There have been cases wherein a Dalit is killed by the upper castes and the family members of the victim’s family are later harassed by the same people,” Rathod said.
For instance, the Gagabhai Dalit, living in the Kundaliya village of Banaskanta district, was killed because he had filed a police complaint under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the influential people of the village. His son, Bhagwanbhai Dalit, filed a complaint when he was harassed and threatened by the same people. The family has been provided police protection by the Banaskantha district police. Banaskantha district has four villages where Dalits have been provided security.
Speaking to DNA, district superintendent of police, Banaskantha district, Ashok Yadav said the problem of Dalit discrimination is still a social issue. The Banaskantha police has recommended not to withdraw the security in these villages as it could result in the law and order problem.