Gujarat witnessed violent protests and sporadic clashes on Wednesday when several Dalit outfits had given a bandh call to protest public flogging of Dalits by a local cow protection group in Una town. Moreover, four persons attempted suicide on Wednesday also, taking the number of those who tried to commit suicide to 22 in the state since Monday.
The Bandh evoked huge response in Saurashtra region where most of the towns observed bandh while schools and colleges and also markets were shut amid heavy police deployment by the authorities. More than a dozen buses were torched or vandalized while in Porbandar, two police vehicles were vandalized following group clashes between Dalit mobs and cops.
The main cities in Saurashtra, Rajkot, Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar, Surendranagar and Jamnagar were totally shut besides smaller towns.
"There were few incidents of stone pelting, highway blockade and clashes. At few places, the police resorted to use tear gas to disperse mobs. There is no casualty anywhere," said a police official in Gandhinagar.
The bandh was very successful and peaceful. There is huge awareness among Dalits and it is reflected in the way people of the community have come out to join protests," said a prominent Dalit activist and member of Dalit Panthers Party, which had given a Bandh call.
Chief Minister Anandiben Patel visited the victims and their family members in Mota Samadhiyala village where the incident of public flogging occurred and also Rajkot hospital where the victims are under treatment. "I have asked the administration to provide police protection to the families of victims. I will come back and visit the village in two months," she said after meeting the family members. The government has also raised the compansation amount from Rs one lakh to Rs four lakh to each victim.
Meanwhile, protests by the Dalits more than a week after the Una incident has turned the state into a political battle ground with the ruling BJP finding itself into a corner as the Anandiben administration failed to grasp the gravity of the incident that triggered mass violent protests.
On Thursday, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is flying down to meet the victims and their family members in the village as well as in Rajkot hospital. Subsequently on Friday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale and former union minister and NCP leader Praful Patel are also coming down to meet the victims.
The Gujarat police have arrested 16 persons and the DGP has constituted a special investigation team to probe the case.