By Asmita Nandy
Two FIRs have been lodged in the case, one against police for failing to provide protection to the activist.
“Since 2013, there have been several attempts to kill my father. The police did not support us. That is why, the dominant caste men of our village could dare to enter our home and hack him to death,” said the weeping daughter of a Dalit rights activist Amrabhai Boricha, 50, who was killed in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district on Tuesday, 2 March.
Amrabhai had filed a complaint under SC/ST Act, against three of the ten accused in 2013 over a brawl that took place after some of the ‘upper caste’ men from the village abused him while passing by his house. Since then, the men have been out on bail but the pressure and harassment had increased for Amrabhai, his daughter recalled. She says that the accused men were constantly pressuring Amrabhai to withdraw the 2013 case.
On Tuesday, two days after an attack attempt failed, some of the men belonging to Darbar (Kshatriya) community crossed his house while playing DJ music when Amrabhai and his daughter were standing outside their home. His daughter, Nirmala, recalls that the men returned after a while and attacked her father with stones, pipes and rods.
Nirmala too was injured and was rushed to Sir Takhtasinhji General Hospital in Bhavnagar city.
Arvind Makwana, a worker of Navsarjan, an Ahmedabad-based NGO working for Dalit rights said despite Amrabhai asking for right to keep weapon for self protection, the police had only granted him home guards who could not stop the attack. He says two FIRs have been lodged – one against the accused and the other against the police for failing to provide protection.
Makwana said about a month ago when there was another attempt to attack Amrabhai, he had complained to the police but sub-inspector PR Solanki of Ghogha did not register an FIR.
Bhavnagar SP, however, denied the allegations and said, “There were no written complaint given to the local police station. But, we are enquiring why an FIR was not registered on the basis of a verbal complaint.”
On being asked about the allegations over inadequate police protection, he said, “The family had never asked us for police protection. We ourselves had allotted home guards sensing trouble for the family over the 2013 case.”
This is not the first attack on a Dalit activist in Gujarat. In October, 2020 a Dalit lawyer-activist was hacked to death by dominant caste men allegedly over an ‘anti-Brahmin’ Facebook post. In 2019, a team of the Gujarat Government’s Abhyam Helpline was attacked while they were accompanying a Dalit youth who was on his way to bring home his newly-wed wife. The youth was killed over his intercaste marriage.
Speaking to The Quint, Makwana says he has been fighting for Dalit rights since 1998 and there have been several instances when he has been threatened with false FIRs or felt pressured even from the police to not help the Dalit victim. He says, “It has been many years for me in this field now so the fear has also reduced a bit. Earlier, I would even feel scared to go to an area populated with dominant caste houses. Even if they didn’t say anything, they would always gather together and that was quite intimidating.”
Another activist fighting for Dalit rights, Hasmukh Saxena, said, “The government’s silence and delay in punishing the culprits contributes in enhancing the number of atrocities against Dalits in the state.”
He adds, “The administrative system and structures are designed in such a way that they always help the upper caste men. It gets very difficult to file an FIR or follow up with the cases because of that.”
In 2019, Kaushik Parmar, an RTI activist from Gujarat had sought information from the SC/ST Cell of Gujarat Police about the condition of Dalits in in the state. The RTI query revealed that in the past year, 1,545 such cases had been registered – highest since 2001. This includes 22 murders and 104 incidents of rape.
Credit: The Quint.com