Ahmedabad, Jul 21: A fact finding team which visited Gujarat's Una town in connection with the brutal assault of Dalits, has claimed to have found a new trend among 'cow vigilantes' to show bravado by making a particular Dalit community as their "soft target".
The incident of beating up of seven Dalit youths in Mota Samadhilya village of Gir-Somnath district last week has triggered large scale protests across the state. The protests worsened yesterday as seven youths attempted suicide with violence and arson spreading to various places in the state.
An eight-member fact finding team, comprising Dalits from various city-based NGOs including Dalit Adhikar Manch, which went to the village from here a few days back, found out that the incident was brutal as the alleged beating of youths started from 9.30 AM and continued unabated till 1.30 PM, and inspite of the victims' kin repeatedly calling police, the latter allegedly did not act.
The team members said that Dalits are "soft targets" for these vigilante groups. Dalits are actually not involved in slaughter of cows, but are only doing their traditional business of leather, while they (vigilante groups) refrain from confronting those involved in slaughter, they said.
There is a particular Dalit community that deals in the trade of leather. In Gir-Somnath and surrounding districts of Gujarat these self-appointed cow protection committees have come up in the name of saving cows, said Kaushik Parmar, who led the fact finding team to the village.
"We have found out that this inhuman incident of beating Dalit youths was not one off. From last many months these particular community members have become target of these cow protection groups," Parmar said.
"There have been at least three such incidents in the past two months in the area when the Dalit community members were beaten up by these so-called cow vigilante groups. All those are related to skinning of dead cows," he said.
"Earlier, such cow vigilantes used to target those who are involved in cow slaughter. But since last seven to eight months, they have started targeting Dalit community members who are involved in leather business and are soft targets, to show off their bravado. It has been noticed that these groups in the past few months attacked Dalits when they were involved in skinning of dead cows," he said.
"Instead of targeting those involved in slaughter, these groups started targeting Dalits," charged another fact finding team member Subodh Parmar.
"One farmer whose cow was killed had called this family (Dalits who were beaten up in Una last week) to dispose of the dead cow. They (victims) took the dead cow outside the Mota Samadhilya village and were skinning it, when about 30 to 35 people of cow protection group came and started abusing and beating them," Kaushik Parmar claimed.
"The beating continued from 9.30 AM to 1.30 PM. The family members of victims and others called up police but it did not turn up," they said. The accused themselves made the video footage and also had a group photograph clicked after doing the act, they said.
The fact finding team members have demanded that the state should ban such cow protection groups.
"Such cow protection groups should be banned across the state. There is already a law against cow slaughter in the state, then what is the need of such vigilante groups," Kaushik Parmar said.
The team has also demanded that police should add IPC section related to criminal conspiracy in the FIR registered in connection with the Una incident.