An atmosphere of fear hung over a colony of Dalits in this Gujarat village after the killing of a young man from the community for attending a Navratri garba event.
Though police immediately arrested eight persons allegedly involved in the incident, uneasiness prevailed.
Residents of Vankarvas in Bhadraniya told a visiting team of Dalit activists, led by Jignesh Mevani, late Monday night that the village elders had got the electricity connection to their locality snapped in the night to prevent relatives and others coming to meet the victim’s family.
“The village sarpanch ensured there were no lights in Vankarvas after the incident so that few people could visit Jayesh’s (the victim) family,” Mevani, convenor of Rashtriya Dalit Adkhikar Manch, said.
Mevani, who was camping in the village till past Monday midnight, said: “People are also saying some unidentified persons were lurking in the Vankarvas in the late night, possibly keeping a watch in the locality.”
The village is located in Gujarat Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki’s home district of Anand.
It was in the early hours of Saturday when Jayesh Solanki, 21, who lived in Vankarvas, was beaten to death allegedly by a group of people belonging to the upper Patel caste of the same village because he attended the event taking place near the local temple, police said.
Trouble began after Sanjay alias Bhimo allegedly made casteist remarks on Jayesh and abused him.
Sanjay and his seven friends, all from Bhadraniya, reportedly told him, his cousin Prakash Solanki and two others, that Dalits did not have a right to attend garba programmes.
Following an altercation over this, they exchanged blows and the Patel boys later started beating up Jayesh, the police said.
Jayesh’s head was banged against a wall and he was severely injured. He fell unconscious and was rushed to a private hospital, where he was declared brought dead.
The accused have been booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including Section 302 for murder, and under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Mevani, meanwhile, said various Dalit organisations will hold a public meeting in the village on Thursday to protest Jayesh’s killing and submit a memorandum to the District Collector.
He said attacks on Dalits had become a routine affair.
He cited the instance of two incidents on September 25 and September 29 in Gandhinagar district when members of the Rajput community beat up Dalits for sporting moustaches.
Dalit community leaders organised a protest against these incidents and passed a resolution to work for the defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the assembly elections due in December.
“We will die the death of a dog but will not vote for the BJP in our life,” pledged over 1,000 Dalit community members led by Mevani.
They also pledged to launch a campaign against what they called “Hindutva, anti-Dalit and anti-Constitution BJP”.
Meanwhile, several youngsters from Dalit community have also launched a social media campaign in support of Piyush Parmar and Krunal, who were thrashed for keeping moustaches, posting selfies sporting twirled moustaches and hashtags as #Jativaadnavirodhma (In protest against casteism), #Samvidhaannasamarthanma (In support of Constitution) and #Piysushbhainasamarthanma (In support of Piyush).