Una victims say farmers will hit BJP hard

Una victims say farmers will hit BJP hard

It takes just a moment to change one's life. But sometimes, one has to endure pain for long to see the result.

"Can you help us get justice?" The father-son duo throws the poser several times during the conversation.

Presently working as farm labourers, their lives changed on July 11, 2016. The day also changed the life of Gujarat's first woman Chief Minister Anandiben Patel.

"It was a blessing in disguise. We were lucky that the video of the incident went viral. It has freed us of our ancestral trade of skinning dead animals," says Balubhai Sarvaiya. It was from his family that four youngsters (Vashram, Ramesh, Ashok and Bechar) were flogged in public at the nearby Una town by a self-styled cow protection group.  

The other positive is that no one in the village treats them with disrespect anymore. "Earlier, we were not allowed to sit on the ground before upper caste people. Now many of them even offer us a chair."

Recalling the fateful day, Balubhai says what hurt him most was the accusation of killing a cow. "I had a cow at home. She was my pet and I would talk to her. I'm sure it's my service to the cow that saved me," he says, as his son Vashram gazes into eternity.

Today, all the accused in the Una attack, except four of five, are out on bail. And that is what saddens the father and the son.  

Balubhai has almost reconciled himself to his new life as a farm labourer. Still he wants to migrate to a big city. "I keep telling the youngsters in the village to go to big cities. My younger son Ramesh is already in Ahmedabad, learning sewing. I want Vashram also to go, but the case keeps him here," he says.

Vashram is the main complainant and he has to attend court at Una regularly.

Anandiben's promise

Both want the promise made to them by former chief minister Anandiben Patel - that a fast-track court would be set up to dispose of their cases in 90 days - to be kept. Now, even after a year and a half, the road to justice has reached nowhere.

They say they understand the "compulsions" of politicians but are upset that their party BJP did not stand by them. "I was a staunch BJP supporter for 20 years. Imagine if the BJP had stood by us and acted against injustice!" Balubhai exclaims.

So, what does he think of the polls in the state? "I don't think  Hardik or Alpesh or Jignesh will hit the BJP as much as the farmers would," he says.

"We go to different villages to work; we see that the farmers are not getting the right price for their produce. Initially, they used to get Rs 450 per 20 kg instead of the government price of Rs 900. Now there are no buyers at all and farmers are seething in rage."

As for the father-son duo, the wait for justice and change in life continues.

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