Dalits “Soft Target” For Cow Protection Groups, Says Fact Finding Team

Dalit women carry a portrait of Ambedkar as they block traffic during a protest in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. Credit: PTI

Dalit women carry a portrait of Ambedkar as they block traffic during a protest in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. Credit: PTI

Ahmedabad: A fact finding team that visited Gujarat’s Una town in connection with the brutal assault on Dalits by ‘gau rakshaks, has claimed to have found a new trend among  so-called ‘cow vigilantes’ who show their bravado by using the Dalit community as a “soft target”.

The incident last week, in which seven Dalits were beaten up in Mota Samadhilya village of Gir Somnath, has triggered large-scale protests across the state. The protests have heightened over this week, after seven Dalits attempted suicide.

An eight-member fact finding team, with Dalits from various city-based NGOs including the Dalit Adhikar Manch, found that the alleged beating started from 9:30 AM and continued unabated till 1:30 PM. Despite the victims’ kin repeatedly calling the police, the latter allegedly did not act.

The team members said Dalits are “soft targets” for these vigilante groups. Dalits are actually not involved in the slaughter of cows, but are only doing their traditional business of leather, while they (vigilante groups) refrain from confronting those involved in the slaughter, they said.

There is a particular Dalit community that deals in the trade of leather.

In Gir Somnath and the surrounding districts of Gujarat, these self-appointed cow protection committees have come up in the name of saving cows, said Kaushik Parmar, who led the fact finding team to the village. “We have found out that this inhuman incident of beating Dalit youths was not one off. From last many months these particular community members have become the target of these cow protection groups,” Parmar said.

“There have been at least three such incidents in the past two months in the area when the Dalit community members were beaten up by these so-called cow vigilante groups. All those are related to skinning of dead cows,” he said.

“Earlier, such cow vigilantes used to target those who are involved in cow slaughter. But since the last seven or eight months, they have started targeting Dalit community members who are involved in the leather business and are soft targets, to show off their bravado. It has been noticed that these groups in the past few months attacked Dalits when they were involved in skinning of dead cows,” he said.

“Such cow protection groups should be banned across the state. There is already a law against cow slaughter in the state, then what is the need of such vigilante groups,” Parmar added.

The team has also demanded that police should add the Indian Penal Code section related to criminal conspiracy to the FIR registered in connection with the Una incident.