Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Alleging Govt insensitivity, Dalits embrace Buddhism

Vadodara, September 9: THE family of Raman Vankar Solanki, the Dalit youth who was allegedly killed by upper caste residents of Bhetasi village of Anklav taluka in Anand district, embraced Buddhism on Tuesday to protest against the insensitivity of administration and government.

About two dozen other Dalits of the village accompanied the family in embracing Buddhism.

Raman, who was beaten up by men from Darbar community of the village on July 25 for allegedly sitting inside a temple, had died on August 8. And though the post mortem report said that he died of dry drowning, family members claim that he was murdered by upper castes.

Raman's sister, Vimla Solanki, said that the murder took place a day after she filed a police complaint on August 7, naming four Darbars for beating her brother on July 25.

''They had not only beaten him, but chased him inside Dalit quarters of the village. After that we received regular threats and a day after our complaint, my brother was killed,'' she said.

Calling the conversion a step in desperation, Vimla said that faced with threats to life they were left with no option but to leave the Hindu religious fold. ''When being a Hindu we cannot sit in a temple, why continue to take the abuses?.''

Vimla, a post graduate, used to work in fields as agricultural labourers along with her brother. Tuesday's conversion was carried out by Vishwa Boudha Sangh, a Dalit right's body involved in conversions in the state. Its national general secretary, Bhante Sanghpriya, said that the conversions were carried out to show the anger of oppressed people against the unjust social order.

''The Dalits in the village are angry. We helped them to come out of the morass. Twenty two pledges of Buddhism were administered amidst chants of Panchsheel mantra,'' said Sanghpriya.

The family claims they continue to live in danger. ''On September 3, I again received a letter, threatening that I would be killed. We are so scared that we do not move out of our house too often. People in the village do not come to meet us,'' says Vimla.

Her cousin Shantilal Vankar, who also embraced Buddhism, says that the divide in the village is so complete that not even the sarpanch is coming towards Dalit quarters of Vankar Vas. ''If this continues, then all Dalits in the village would embrace Buddhism. The case is being hushed up and the killers roam around freely, threatening us,'' says Shantilal.

Interestingly, police still sticks to the drowning theory as the reason behind Raman's death. Contesting it, Vimla says that if that had been the case, how come Raman died at the residence? ''On the day he died, he returned to home gasping for breath, and died immediately. He just uttered the words mar dala before succumbing,'' said Vimla.

Deputy Superintendent of Police J G Saiyad, who is the investigating officer, when contacted said, that the FSL report of viscera has come but is yet to be studied in detail. ''The reason as the doctors have explained is that Raman died of dry drowning, a condition which occurs when a person takes water in asphyxiated condition,'' said Saiyad. He also denied that there was any tension prevailing in the village.

About the recent threat received by Vimla, Saiyad said that he has taken the writing samples of the suspects and sent them to hand writing experts. But Vimla still feels that nothing would come out as some political hand is behind hushing up the case. ''I am in danger, scared, don't know what to do and how,'' she says. Four SRP constables have been posted outside the Dalit quarters for security.

Source: The Indian Express, September 10, 2003

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