Protests Erupt Against Gujarat ‘Gau Rakshaks’; Seven Dalits Attempt Suicide

A video grab of the incident. Credit: ANI/Twitter

A video grab of the incident. Credit: ANI/Twitter

Protests erupted across Gujarat’s Saurashtra region on Monday evening,  demonstrating widespread anger against last week’s incident of a Dalit family being beaten by a ‘gau rakshak‘ (cow protection) vigilante group. A video showing parts of the incident where four Dalits were stripped and hit with iron rods for allegedly skinning a dead cow went viral on social media.

Dalit protestors unloaded a truckload of cow carcasses in front of the collector’s office in Surendranagar district on Monday, the Economic Times reported. “We have submitted a memorandum to the collector and he has assured us in writing that our concerns will be taken care of,” one the protestors at the collector’s office, Natubhai Parmar, told the Economic Times.

Demonstrators burnt two state buses near Dhoraji town in Rajkot district and set fire to another state transport bus near Jamnagar’s Dhrol town, a report in The Indian Express says. Protesters also blocked NH-27, connecting Rajkot and Porbandar. It was cleared later at night.

In addition to the street protests, seven young Dalit men tried to commit suicide to register their anger and dismay at last week’s violent incident, NDTV reported. Five Dalits, including a Congress councillor, drank phenyl in Gondal, Rajkot, alleging that the authorities were being soft on the accused. Two other protesters consumed germicide in Jamkandorana, Rakjot.

While intervention from the police and paramedics saved the lives of the five protesters in Gondal, the condition of the two Jamkandorana labourers was reported to be serious, the Indian Express said. Chief minister Anandiben Patel said in a release that their medical costs would be taken care of by the state.

Patel also took to Twitter to try and calm the situation, saying she was “deeply pained” what had happened last week. She also announced that a special court would be set up to investigate this atrocity case. Unsurprisingly, several Twitter users commented on the fact that she only spoke of the incident after widespread protests gripped the state.

The original incident took place on Monday last week, when a Dalit family in Mota Samadhiyala village, Una taluka was skinning a cow carcass. The accused started questioning them, accusing the family of slaughtering the cow, to which the family said they were skinning a carcass of a dead cow they had bought in another village. “But they started abusing us and attacked us with iron pipes, sticks and a knife with which we were removing the skin of the carcass,” the victims’ police complaint reads.

After beating up seven members of the family in the village, reports said, the accused, claiming to be part of a cow protection group, put four of the victims in a car and drove them to Una town. There, they stripped the four men, paraded them on the streets and hit them in full public view. When the police arrived, the attackers fled in their car. A video of the four being beaten with iron road after being stripped of their clothes went viral on social media, causing widespread outrage and raising eyebrows on the increasing violence being inflicted by gau raksha groups.

Based on the complaint, the Una police booked the six accused for attempt to murder, dacoity, criminal intimidation and under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocity) Act.