Cops Vs Adivasis in Dahod: Gujarat’s Social Fault Lines Exposed
The Quint’s ground report from Dahod, where angry villagers are up in arms after an interrogation murder.
“These adivasis don’t like to work for a living. They will not simply rob you and let you go, they will kill you mercilessly. That’s what they call work,” Ashokbhai, who works as a driver in Ahmedabad, is anything but sheepish about his bias against the adivasis.
When he drove us into Chilakota village in Gujarat’s Dahod district, policemen were seen lazing on charpais, smacking away the occasional fly. An inordinately large contingent, with extra personnel brought in from three neighbouring areas – Fatehpura, Limkheda and Jesawda.
An Interrogation Death
As is routine around Diwali, 31-year-old Kanesh Gamara and his younger brother Raju were home for a short break. Kanesh worked as daily wage construction worker in Ahmedabad and was going to head back to the city soon.
Two kilometers off a narrow road, a kuchcha path leads to a batch of huts where they live. There’s no network coverage in this remote village – where roughly 1,600, mostly adivasi, families live – clearly left way behind as the rest of Gujarat has moved well on to the 21st century.
On the night of 25-26 October, five policemen barged into their house, woke Kanesh and Raju from their sleep and started raining blows.
The police were looking for Naru Gamara, the younger brother, who’s wanted in an alleged dacoity and other cases. Unable to find Naru, the cops took Kanesh and Raju away.
“They pointed guns at them, clicked photographs, hit Kanesh repeatedly in the groin and took them away,” says Bharat Gamara, Kanesh and Raju’s cousin brother, who’s just completed a course in Ahmedabad to become a electrician.
Halfway to the police station, the cops saw that Kanesh wasn’t looking well and dumped him back home. Within half an hour, he was dead.
Raju returned from the police station the next day, to find his brother dead.
The Intense Backlash
A day later, the grieving family placed Kanesh’s body on the doorstep of the Jesawada police station and demanded an FIR be filed. Initially, the police did nothing, they claim. “They did not want to file an FIR. It took eight hours before they moved.”
The police, in their defence, say that they asked the family to wait for the post mortem report, so that the reasons for his death could be recorded in the FIR.
The Jesawda police station was soon gheraoed by 200-300 angry men and women who railed against the delay. They pelted stones and burned down a vehicle.
Shop owners in the area say the mob looked like it had a plan, as they cordoned off the road leading to the police station. Seeing that they were outnumbered and surrounded, the cops opened fire.
One farmer was killed by a bullet, while several others, including policemen, were injured in the violence.
“Why did the police come knocking on our door at midnight?,” asks Kanesh’s brother. In its defence, the police claims, during the day, Naru would have been able to see the cops coming from a distance and would have escaped. “We needed the element of surprise,” they say.
The Gamara family’s demand to punish the police has resulted in five cops being booked for murder. Only one policeman, ‘Somabhai’ has been named. One may ask why the names of the four remaining policemen are not known to the police.
A case of rioting has also been registered against 200-300 people. Kanesh is survived by his 28-year-old wife and three children — 11-year-old Jigar, 4-year-old Rohit and 2-year-old Dimple.
No Mention in the Local Press
Interestingly, Kanesh’s death, that took place just a day after the dates were announced for the state assembly elections in Gujarat, went largely unreported in the local newspapers and TV channels.
The adivasi community in Chilakota, far removed from the politics in the big cities, is part of the state’s 15% tribal voter base. Dismissed by most as ‘uneducated’, ‘unreasonable’, even ‘habitually criminal’ people whose mainstay is theft and dacoity, the odds of political representation are stacked against them.
Will this sense of distrust against the administration, apparent in Chilakota’s adivasi community dictate their vote? – Remains to be seen.
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Video Producer: Hansa Malhotra
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