Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Police on Thursday arrested eight persons allegedly involved in the murder of a Dalit deputy sarpanch in Saurashtra region’s Botad district by upper caste men, days after he sought police protection fearing attacks.
The security provided to Manji Solanki of Jalila village in Botad district’s Ranpur taluka (tehsil), who had been attacked thrice earlier, had been withdrawn while he had requested for police protection again, which was not given.
His family refused to accept his body after post-mortem at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital and demanded they be given security cover.
Manjibhai’s son Tushar Solanki told reporters here: “We won’t take the body till we are given protection. We also want that action should be taken against police personnel who did not provide us security though we had asked for it”.
Botad Superintendent of Police Harshad Mehta confirmed to reporters that his office did receive an application from Manjibhai for security on June 6 and the police were examining the threat perception to him. He had been given police protection on March 3, 2018, after the last attack on him, but this was subsequently withdrawn.
Solanki was allegedly attacked with clubs and iron pipes by the inmates of a car who first knocked him down when he was returning home on a motorcycle on Wednesday. The police said Solanki died on way when he was being taken to Ahmedabad Civil Hospital.
He also agreed that Manji was attacked on four occasions and that the accused persons in all the attacks, including the one on Wednesday, were the same.
Tushar Solanki said the upper caste members were angry with his father since he used to fight cases of caste atrocities against the Dalit community. “This is why my father had also applied for a weapon licence, besides asking for security,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who did not react to this incident, said at a meeting of the monitoring committee on atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes that the police should initiate stern action in atrocity cases.
He instructed district collectors concerned to ensure an atmosphere of amity and harmony in 32 villages and 20 mohallas where the Dalits lived under police protection.
Independent Dalit MLA from Vadgam Jignesh Mevani, who was not called for this meeting, dashed off a letter to Rupani expressing concern over the situation of Dalits in the State. Mevani said the police galvanized into action only after an incident took place, but could not prevent it.
Congress MLAs Naushad Solanki, Shailesh Parmar and Vasrambhai Patel called on the family of Solanki at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital and expressed solidarity with them. Later, BJP legislator Pradip Parmar and former MLA R.M. Patel also met them.