Gujarat Dalit suicide: Protesters hold rally, block roads; Jignesh Mevani detained

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Bhanubhai Vanakar, who had been agitating to get land alloted to two Dalit labourers in Patan district’s Dudhka village, had on Thursday set himself ablaze at the collector’s office.

Parts of Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Patan were brought to a standstill on Sunday after protesters blocked roads and some unidentified people torched vehicles over the death of Dalit activist Bhanubhai Vanakar two days ago. The protests gained more steam after MLA Jignesh Mevani, who had appealed to the Dalits to gather for protests, was detained in Ahmedabad, with crime branch officials saying the Dalit leader misbehaved with police. However, Mevani tweeted he was pulled out of a car by police in a “very uncivilised manner”. A total of 70 people were detained on Sunday.

Vankar, who had been agitating to get land alloted to two Dalit labourers in Patan district’s Dudhka village, had on Thursday set himself ablaze at the collector’s office. On Saturday, under pressure from Dalit activists, the government announced that the ownership title of the land would be given to the two Dalits for whom Vankar had been fighting. Vankar, 61, retired as a talati (revenue clerk) and was associated with the Mevani-led Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch after the Una Dalit flogging case of July 2016.

Kailash Barot, a resident of Sami in Patan district, sustained burn injuries during the protests on Sunday. She was admitted at Dharpur Medical College near Patan. (Express photo by Javed Raja)

PTI quoted Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) J K Bhatt as saying that Mevani did not cooperate with police. “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.

Dalits Protest Over Activist Bhanu Vankar’s Death In Patan
 
So, as a precautionary measure, we have detained him,” Bhatt said. The police had registered an FIR on Friday against unknown persons under abettment to suicide, besides other sections of the IPC and sections of the Atrocities Act. However, Mevani countered the police version and said he was pulled out of the car in a very uncivilised manner and his car keys were also broken.

Two companies of anti-riot Rapid Action Force (RAF) and three companies of the State Reserve Police (SRP) have been deployed in the city. Even though the Vijay Rupani-led government announced that it would accept the key demands of Vanakar’s family, Mevani had sought a circular conceding the demands. After his detention, Mevani claimed through his tweet that police misbehaved with him when he was on his way for “a peaceful protest at Ambedkar statue in Sarangpur”.

After news about Mevani’s detention spread, some unidentified people set a car on fire in Vadaj area. (Express photo by Javed Raja)

After news about Mevani’s detention spread, some unidentified people set a car on fire in Vadaj area of the city, police said. The state’s police control room said protesters tried to block roads in Patan, Gandhinagar and in Unjha town of Mehsana district, which is the hometown of Vankar. Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel had announced constitution of a judicial commission under a retired high court judge or form an SIT to investigate Vanakar’s death. Patel had said that a member of the family of the deceased will be given a government job.

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