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People returning from Una Dalit rally attacked, 19 hurt

The Dalits were returning to Bhavnagar, after attending a protest rally in Una town, in which policemen were also targeted. With caste tension seething in this south-western part of Gujarat, 19 people, including four policemen, were injured in clashes and hospitalised. The police had to fire in the air and lob teargas shells to disperse the irate mobs.

The attack took place on Monday evening at Samter village near Una, 350km from Ahmedabad. The policemen came under attack when they tried to control the violent mobs that targeted the Dalits. The attackers were residents of Samter, around 11km from Una.

“After the rally, anti-social elements blocked the road near Samter when Dalits were returning. They attacked a group of Dalits. We lobbed 46 teargas shells, fired six rounds in the air and used batons to disperse the mob," Gir-Somnath Superintendent of Police HR Chaudhary said. "We have arrested 22 people for the attack," he said.

According to inspector HG Vaghela, those arrested have been booked under charges of rioting and assaulting Dalits as well as policemen. Some of them have also been booked for attempt to murder, said Vaghela, who was injured while trying to control the mob.

At least 15 Dalits were injured and around eight of them suffered severe wounds. The victims claimed that some upper caste residents of Samter attacked them to avenge the arrest of 12 people of the village in connection with last month's Una Dalit flogging case.

They said of the 30-odd people arrested till date in the Dalit thrashing case, 12 hail from Samter near Mota Samadhiyala, where cow vigilantes assaulted a group of Dalits for allegedly skinning a dead cow.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela said the incident showed there was a breakdown of law and order in the BJP-ruled State.

"Yesterday's attack on Dalits proves there is complete lawlessness in Gujarat. Law and order does not exist in Gujarat. Not just Dalits, members of Patel community, women as well as tribals are targeted regularly in Gujarat," Vaghela told reporters.

Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel hit back, saying the main Opposition party is raising such issues for political mileage and with an eye on the 2017 Assembly election. "People very well know this Government has taken stringent action in the Dalit flogging case. But, Congress is trying to gain political mileage in the wake of 2017 polls by raising even small and insignificant issues. Such acts are tarnishing Gujarat's image," said Patel.

Nearly 10,000 people had gathered at a school’s grounds to protest against repeated attacks on Dalits in the state.  They pledged they would no longer remove dead cows or skin them, refusing to subscribe to poorly-paid and grueling occupations thrust upon lower castes.

At Monday’s rally, Dalit leaders had announced that in a month, land that was set aside by the government for lower caste farmers must be handed over to them after years of stalling. They warned that if those and other rights were not delivered, they would launch a massive protest. At the start of this month, Dalits had attacked buses and blocked roads in Ahmedabad to protest against the government’s alleged failure to protect them.  The ruling BJP also had to remove Anandiben as Chief Minister a few days later.  

Clamour for a place of Pride

  More than 10,000 Dalits staged the protest in Una
  Dalits say upper castes attacked them on their way back home
  Four cops hurt in incident. Police had to use batons, teargas to disperse mob
  Protesters have threatened to launch a massive stir, if demands not met
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