Gujarat: Dalit allegedly murdered by 8 upper caste men

A 20-year-old scheduled caste (SC) youth was brutally murdered in Rajkot district late on Tuesday night allegedly by a group of eight men from the upper caste Darbar community. The reason behind the murder is said to be an old rivalry between the families of the victim and the accused.

According to Rajkot rural police, a night patrolling team found Rajesh Sondarva crying for help at around 12: 30 AM on the outskirts of his village Manekwada in Kotada Sanganj taluka. Police said that his both legs were bleeding due to severe injuries inflicted, possibly by iron rods. There were no injury marks anywhere else on his body.

Initially, an FIR was registered against six persons for attempted murder but Sondarva passed away during treatment at around 5 AM. Following protests by grieved family members and Dalit leaders, the police registered a case of murder against eight accused. Incidentally, Sondarva’s father, Nanji had also been murdered last year in a similar manner by other members of the same family.

“Nanji was murdered by fathers and uncles of present case accused, while his son Sondarva has been murdered by sons and nephews of Nanji's murderers. The two families of the village have had a running quarrel since Nanji tried to expose the accused family’s financial irregularities through RTI,” a police officer said.

Mahendrasinh Jadeja, one of the members of the accused family is sarpanch of the village. He was the prime accused in the murder of Nanji. Nanji was allegedly exposing Jadeja's financial irregularities in government schemes. Following Nanji’s murder, the police had deployed security outside the victim's house.

“The police deployment is outside the victim’s house, while the incident took place on the outskirts of the village. Sondarva had gone somewhere and on his way back home he was attacked. We have found that the accused brutally thrashed both his legs which led to profuse bleeding. Prima facie, excessive bleeding looks like the cause of death,” said Balram Meena, Superintendent of Police, Rajkot district. Meena also told DH that “Six of the accused have already been detained by the police.”

In the meanwhile, independent MLA and SC leader Jignesh Mevani rushed to Rajkot to meet the victim’s family. He told DH, “He (Sondarva) was in touch with me. He and his mother used to stay at my MLA quarters in Gandhinagar. I used to talk to concerned SP and investigating officer of his father’s murder case. The state has failed to protect the family.” 

He added that “The purpose for which the Prevention of Atrocities Act was created is completely defeated in the state as there is no political will and administration concern on the part of officers to prevent such incidents. Dalits’ lives don’t matter in Gujarat.”

Dalits have been at the receiving end in the state with rising attacks on them for wearing particular clothes, shoes, sporting moustaches and riding horses in their wedding processions among other reasons.

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