200 Dalits in Gujarat threaten to convert to Buddhism

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As many as 200 dalits from Amreli district today threatened to convert to Buddhism alleging police inaction in conducting a fair probe in the the death of a community member in judicial custody two weeks ago.

200 dalits buddhism
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Jignesh Saundarva (29) who was lodged at Amreli sub-jail died at a civil hospital on June 15.

Though Amreli police today nabbed four prisoners from the sub-jail on the charges of Saundarva’s murder, dalit community members as well as the deceased’s kin expressed unhappiness over the probe and rushed to collector office to collect forms for conversion.

Saundarva was shifted to civil hospital after he developed health complications while being lodged in Amreli sub-jail, police had said.

He was arrested under Prohibition Act from Dungar village in Rajula tehsil of the district and was sent to judicial custody on June 12.

Earlier, his family had refused to accept his body demanding a fair probe in the incident.

After a day long protest, they had claimed the body after getting assurance of fair probe from police as well as the district administration.

Today, Amreli Local Crime Branch arrested four prisoners who allegedly caused fatal injuries to Saundarva during a brawl inside the jail.

“Our probe has revealed that Saundarva had a scuffle with four undertrials inside the jail over some petty issue. During the scuffle, the accused thrashed him and hit his head on the wall, which led to his death. We have arrested all these prisoners from the jail today,” said A P Patel, Police inspector of Amreli LCB.

However, Saundarva’s kin as well as local dalit leaders expressed unhappiness over the police action, as they claimed that Saundarva died due to police torture.

“The post-mortem report suggests that Saundarva was beaten up three to four days before he was sent to jail. That means he was tortured during police remand. He might have been thrashed by the jail staff too during judicial custody.

“We want the CBI to investigate the case. We do not have any faith in the police,” said dalit leader Navchetan Parmar.

“To give a strong message to the government, around 200 dalits of Dungar and other adjoining places have decided to leave Hinduism and embrace Buddhism, for which, many of them have collected forms from the Collector office today. We will submit these forms in coming days,” said Parmar, who is leading the agitation.

He announced that these 200 dalits will start their journey towards embracing Buddhism by immersing idols and photographs of Hindu gods and goddesses, kept in their homes, in Thebi dam in this district tomorrow.

“Even if the government orders CBI inquiry, we will not step back from our decision to covert in protest of such injustice. If needed, we will also dig out Saundarva’s body from the grave and march to Collector office on July 7 to raise our demand for a fair probe,” he added.

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