The Gujarat bandh, called by Dalit Panthers and other outfits on Wednesday to protest the public beating of Dalits in Una, evoked a mixed response. Incidents of violence, arson, clashes with police and stone pelting were reported from several parts of the state, including Ahmedabad, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar.
The violence across the state has resulted in the deaths of two persons, including one policeman. Schools and shops remained shut in many parts of the state, while protesters forcibly shut several establishments and blocked roads. In Ahmedabad’s old city area, traffic remained a standstill for several hours due to their road block. Speaking over the phone to FE, Surat police commissioner said, “The situation is peaceful in Surat and surrounding areas. However, there has been some trouble in Saurashtra.”
According to reports, protesters in Saurashtra’s Porbandar set ablaze a private bus after heavy stone pelting. Over 75 bandh supporters were detained in Ahmedabad after violence erupted in several parts of the city where the police had to use tear gas shells to control the mob. Several members belonging to the Dalit communities were detained in Rajkot, while attempting to place a dead animal at a public place.
The bandh supporters took out rallies in Vadodara and Bhavnagar. Security had been tightened across the state in the wake of the bandh call, which was taking place after two days of continued protests by the members of Dalit groups.
Several of them have consumed poison over the last two days to protest the flogging of some Dalit boys on allegations of cow slaughter by a few men who claimed to be “cow protectors”. About nine people have been arrested in connection with the assault, while three policemen were suspended for dereliction of duty.
The Gujarat government has appealed for peace, with chief minister Anandiben Patel visiting the Rajkot civil hospital on Wednesday to meet the Dalits who were injured in the incident. Political leaders including Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi are expected to visit Una in the upcoming days.