Hours after thousands of Dalits from across the country gathered in Una on Independence Day to protest against the rise in atrocities against Dalits, over 250 ‘upper caste’ people in Samter village near Una attacked vehicles returning from the protest rally on Monday.
The police had to fire six rounds in the air in Samter village near Una when a mob started pelting stones on vehicles to protest against the Una Dalit rally. Many vehicles returning from the rally were blocked and vandalised on the highway near the village by the mob gathered allegedly in the name of Darbar community. The police arrested over 15 persons from Samter village and brought them to the Una police station.
More than 21 people, including four police personnel, were admitted to Una district hospital.
“A mob of more than 250 people has been protesting by blockading the highway near Samter for last two days. They demand the immediate release of the accused in the Una Dalit flogging incident. Today, they vandalised vehicles and attacked Dalit protestors,” said H G Vaghela, Inspector of Police, who also got injured in the incident.
“All these ‘gau rakshaks’, who have been arrested in the Una flogging incident, were from the Darbar community. So the people of this community are organising this protest. They pelted stones and vandalised the vehicles and even burnt one motorcycle. The police had to lathi charge to disperse the mob. The situation is now under control,” he added.
Three police officers – Deepika Lakha Sarvaiya, Salimbhai D Bloch and Dilip Singh C Vaghela, got injured in the stone pelting and were admitted to the district hospital. More than 10 people from the Dalit community were also admitted there.
Activists returning from the Una Dalit rally alleged the police failed to control the violence in Samter. Following the incident, anti-Dalit protesters staged a sit-in in front of Una district police headquarters, demanding the immediate arrest of protesters in Samter.
“Upper caste people are pelting stones on vehicles returning from the protest at the other end of the road. Now the situation has become volatile,” said documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan.
The police have arrested more than 15 persons from the Samter village and brought them to the Una police station. However, some of them were injured in the lathi charge and were admitted to the hospital.
Sporadic incidents of violence were reported from different locations near Una. Junagadh Range IG Brajesh Jha said another village Rameshwar Patiya also witnessed violence.
Over 100 vandalised motorcycles were brought to Una town in trucks from the Samter village.
The Independence Day rally marked the culmination of the 10-day march called Dalit Asmita Yatra, led by Jignesh Mevani, that started from Ahmedabad in protest against the flogging of four Dalit men by alleged cow vigilantes.