100 Gujarat Dalits embrace Buddhism


Amreli (Gujarat), July 6 : At least 100 Dalits in Amreli district in Gujarat on Thursday embraced Buddhism in protest against government inaction over the death of a Dalit youth in judicial custody on June 14.

They vowed to exhume his body on Friday to take out a procession.

The agitating Dalits, who had threatened to convert if no action was taken, collected the requisite forms from the District Collectorate and returned the filled up documents to convert to Buddhism.

After submitting the forms, around 100 Dalits from Dungarpur village took a procession to Thhebi dam and immersed statues and gods and goddesses in the swirling waters. 

The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003, requires the permission of the state government before religious conversion.

Hundreds of Dalits from across Gujarat are expected to converge in Amreli on Friday to exhume the body of Jignesh Sondarva, 29, and participate in a procession.

Though four under-trial prisoners have been arrested in the case, the Dalits who have been protesting over the killing of Sundarva in Amreli sub-jail are not satisfied and want action against jail officials for not preventing the incident. 

They also want an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Sondarva, a resident of Dungarpur village of Amreli district’s Rajula taluka (tehsil), was arrested on June 12 for allegedly consuming liquor and was sent to judicial custody after he failed to deposit the bail money. 

While in custody, he had an altercation with four under-trials who allegedly banged his head several times against the barrack wall. Sondarva succumbed to his injuries in a hospital on June 15.

Dalit activist Navchetan Parmar, who is leading the agitation, said the arrest of four under-trials in the case did not mean anything. 

He asserted: “The post-mortem report suggests that Sondarva 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 a CBI inquiry, nothing short of that,” Parmar added.