Gujarat boils over death of Dalit activist


Several parts of Gujarat, including capital Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, and Patan in Mehsana district were affected by the rallies and protests held against the failure of the authorities to prevent suicide by Dalit activist Bhanubhai Vanakar, police said.

The protests were held after police detained Dalit leader and independent MLA Jignesh Mevani, and over 70 others, in Saraspur area of Ahmedabad this morning when they tried to stage demonstrations over Vanakar’s death, reports said.

While City crime branch officials claimed that Mevani did “not behave properly” with the police during his detention, the MLA tweeted he was pulled out of a car by police in a “very uncivilised manner”.

Vanakar, 62, had set himself ablaze outside the Patan Collector’s office on February 15 seeking allotment of land to a Dalit family. He died of burn injuries at a private hospital in Ahmedabad the next day. His body is still lying at Gandhinagar civil hospital as his kin refused to accept it.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) J K Bhatt reportedly said Mevani did not co-operate with police for maintaining peace in the city. “Many Dalit leaders of the city had assured us that peace will not be disturbed during protests. Unfortunately, Mevani didn’t give any such assurance. So, as a precautionary measure, we have detained him today,” Bhatt was quoted as saying.

protest1He reportedly said police also detained around 70 people from Sarangpur and Vadaj areas of Ahmedabad city. “Mevani and other detainees will be released at a proper time,” the JCP said, adding two companies of anti-riot Rapid Action Force (RAF) and three companies of the State Reserve Police (SRP) have been deployed in the city.

Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel had on Saturday announced constitution of a judicial commission under a retired high court judge or form a SIT to investigate Vanakar’s death.

Patel had said that a member of the family of the deceased will be given a government job.

Bhanubhai Vanakar was a member of the Mewani-led Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch. Last month, he had submitted a letter to the CM claiming he would commit self-immolation if his demands were not met

Vanakar had demanded land allotment to Dalits of Dudhka village, in Patan, Mehsana district. Since the govt refused to act, he self-immolated himself on Friday and suffered 96% burn injuries. Doctors declared him dead on Saturday.