Dalit commits suicide, Shinor tense

The Hindu
By Our Special Correspondent

AHMEDABAD, DEC. 2. Tension prevailed in Shinor town in Baroda district in central Gujarat following protest suicide by a Dalit for alleged ill-treatment by upper castes and ``apathy'' of the police and the government officials.

The Minister of State for Home, Mr. Haren Pandya, has ordered suspension of the Shinor police subinspector, Mr. A. R. Chaudhary, who allegedly refused to file a complaint against upper castes by the 30-year-old Ramesh Zaverbhai Rohit who later committed suicide by consuming pesticides outside the office of the Social Justice Department in Baroda.

The State Government has also asked the Secretary of the Social Welfare Department, Mr. R.M. Patel, to inquire into the entire episode at the insistence of the Social Welfare Minister, Mr. Fakirbhai Waghela. Mr. Patel along with senior police and other government officials are camping in Baroda and Shinor to inquire into the matter.

In his dying declaration, Ramesh said he and other Dalits in his native village, Sarasamad, were being harassed by upper castes for some time over fetching of water from the village water works. Due to some technical snags, water supply to the village had remained suspended for the last few weeks and the residents were obliged to fetch water directly from the water works outside the village.

Earlier this week, Ramesh's wife, Kailashben, was prevented by the upper castes from fetching water. Some of them teased her and even tore her clothes. When Ramesh went to file a police complaint, he was thrown out of the police station.

A humiliated Ramesh went to the Social Justice Department office. But despite narrating the incident he failed to elicit any favourable response.

Immediately after coming out of the office, he consumed a bottle of pesticide he was carrying with him. He was rushed to the S.S.G. Hospital where he died yesterday.

The special Inspector General of Police, Baroda range, Mr. Vineet Gupta, admitted that the Shinor police had committed ``grave misconduct''.

The incident has agitated the Dalits in the village and in Shinor town. They said though twice earlier complaints of harassment under the Atrocities Act were lodged against the upper castes for not allowing the Dalits to fetch water from the water works, the police had failed to take action. Instead, the upper caste people severed the water connection to Ramesh' house.

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