Amitbhai Jerambhai Parmar, a dalit RTI activist and social worker was attacked reportedly by men belonging to upper caste while he was returning to his home at Khopala village in Gadhada taluka, Botad. At around 2.30 pm on November 25, Parmar was attacked by at least three men, who left him grievously injured. Parmar who has undergone surgery on his right hand at Bhavnagar civil hospital is awaiting surgery for his legs—fractured due to the attack. An FIR was filed at the Gadhada police station after Parmar was admitted to the hospital.
Parmar, who has been at the helm of the fight for rights of the dalits of the village, has drawn the ire of many including the family of the sarpanch of the village dominated by Patels.
“I have been threatened multiple times. Upper caste men bearing firearms have brazenly entered my home and threatened me and my family. Local police never registered by complaint; nor gave any heed to my request for protection,” Parmar told NewsClick.
Parmar, who was last threatened about five days ago, claims that he was attacked at the behest of JP Patel, who has been sarpanch of the village for three terms succeeded by his wife, who has been sarpanch for 2 terms now.
“Sarpanch of our village had allocated 100 residential plots in accordance with the government resolution. However, not a single plot was allotted to about 15 to 20 dalit families of Khopala. I filed an RTI application about the matter that irked JP Patel whose family members have been the sarpanch of Khopala for years. He has been threatening both directly and by sending goons at my home with firearms, asking me to take the RTI application back,” said Parmar who is in his final year of the LLB course.
“Amit Parmar has been fighting for the rights of the dalits of his village for a long time. For years, no barber would cut hair of a dalit in Khopala, owing to the untouchability that is still practised in many areas of rural Gujarat. Parmar protested against it and after years of writing to the district collector and district police, had the practice abolished from his village,” said Neeru Chorasiya, a dalit activist from Botad.
“However, Parmar did not get much support from dalit families of the village and had to take up the cause alone against the socially dominant Patels. The dalits are dependent on the Patels for their livelihood, as they work as labourers on their agrarian land. If a dalit raises voice, the family is boycotted socially and isn’t offered work. Parmar’s parents, who work as labourers, faced the same and had to find work out of Khopala,” added Chorasiya.
This is the fifth incident of attack on dalits by upper caste men since May this year in Saurashtra region of Gujarat. In three of the cases including Parmar’s, the victims were RTI activists and had been threatened multiple times prior to the attack—repeated complaints of which were allegedly ignored by the police.
In June this year, Manji Solanki, a 55-year-old deputy sarpanch of Jalila village, Ranpur taluka of Botad, was attacked by men of Darbar caste of his village who were irked, as Solanki used to take up cases of atrocities against dalits of his village. Solanki succumbed to his injuries while en route to Ahmedabad for treatment.
Solanki had applied for a weapon licence, approval of which had been pending with the collector of Botad. Solanki had also sought protection from the home minister and DGP of Gujarat, but was yet to receive then police protection. In a letter to DGP in 2010, Solanki, whose wife is the sarpanch of the village, had stated that the members of Kathi Darbar community had threatened him and his supporters and attacked them with swords three times.
In another incident in May, Rajesh Sonadarva, a 20-year-old son of RTI activist Nanji Sondarva—who was reportedly killed last year by upper caste men—was attacked and killed allegedly by men accused of his father’s murder and who were out on bail. Sondarva was brutally injured on both his legs and was left to bleed to death.
Attack on RTI Activists in Gujarat
Notably, RTI activists have been under attack in Gujarat since the introduction of the Right to Information Act, 2005. The biggest case was the murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa, who was shot dead in front of the Gujarat High Court by Dinu Solanki, former BJP MP of Junagadh who was convicted recently after an arduous legal fight by Jethwa’s father.
In 2011, Nadeem Syed—who was also a witness in Naroda Patiya case of 2002 riots—was hacked to death near his residence at Juhapura, Ahmedabad. The accused were all acquitted after all witnesses including Syed’s family members turned hostile.
In 2015, farmer and RTI activist Ratansinh Chaudhary was killed in Banaskantha district in North Gujarat after he filed an RTI application seeking information about government’s flood relief work. The information he had sought had revealed that many of the beneficiaries were not affected by the flood.
In March this year, RTI activist and advocate Henry James Chacko was attacked in Bhuj. Chacko had filed a complaint with the Crime Investigation Department (CID) about a multi crore bank fraud allegedly committed by local BJP leader, Jayanti Thakkar, who is also a prime accused in the high-profile murder case of BJP leader Jayanti Bhanushali.
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