2016 Una flogging incident

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In July 2016, seven members of a Dalit family were assaulted by a group of people in pretext of cow protection in Una in Gujarat, India. The video of the incident was circulated on the social media resulting in statewide protests in following months. Forty-three people including four police officers were arrested and the case is under trial since August 2018.

Background[edit]

Cow vigilantism[edit]

In September 2015, Mohammed Akhlaq was lynched to death in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh by people who suspected that he had beef in his fridge.[1] In March 2016, Mustain Abbas was killed in Haryana while transporting newly purchased bullocks to use on his fields. His family said that the police was threatening them instead of helping them get justice.[2] Mustain Abbas was allegedly killed by the cow protection group called Gau Raksha Dal in Kurukshetra, Haryana. On 27 March Abbas was the only one out of his friends to not escape the Gau Raksha Dal when confronted after purchasing a cow to plow the fields. Mustain’s family filed police reports but they went unheard, and the case was passed from court to court. On 2 April the family received a call to identify a body that had been found in a ditch. Abbas's wounds consisted of stab wounds, a mutilated face, broken limbs, and he was wearing clothes different to the day of the original capturing. Evidence suggested he had gone through torture, and was given no chance to prove his innocence.[2]

In the same month, two Muslim cattle traders including a 12-year-old boy were hanged from a tree in Latehar, Jharkhand by a group claiming to be cow protectors. The police had been ignoring several complaints from the Muslim community against local cow vigilante groups.[3] In June 2016, three people accused of transporting cows were thrashed by a mob of around 150 claiming to be gau rakshaks (cow protectors) in Rajasthan's Pratapgarh district.[4]

Other instances with alleged "Cow Protectors" include the burning of Zahid Ahmed, 19 years old, in his truck (in Jammu and Kashmir), and Khushnood Khan was killed on his way to vote. Khan was from the same village as Abbas. Zahid was accused of allegedly slaughtering a cow, and Khan was accused of allegedly consuming beef.[2]

Una incident[edit]

On 11 July 2016, the seven members of a Dalit family were skinning the carcasses of dead cow in Mota Samadhiyala village near Una in Gir Somnath district of Gujarat state of India. They had bought the carcass from Bediya village. They were approached by persons in two cars who claimed to be member of cow protection group and accused them of killing cows. Dalits tried to convince them that they were skinning dead cows. They were not convinced and tied Dalits to the car and beat them with sticks, iron pipes and a knife. Four of them were brought to Una town in car and stripped and assaulted again in public. When police arrived, the attackers fled in their car. The assault was recorded on video and circulated on social media. The Dalits were moved to hospital in Una and later to Rajkot civil hospital on 14 July.[1][5][6][7][8][9]

Aftermath[edit]

Protests[edit]

The videos of thrashing went viral on internet and sparked the protests across the state.[5] On 12 July 2016, a huge protest rally was at first organized in Chandkheda area in Ahmedabad by various Dalit leaders in which more than 2,000 Dalits attended and blocked the state highway. On 13 July 2016, hundreds of Dalits hold protest rally against the incident and later occupied Trikon Baug, the main square in Una for an hour.[7] On 21 July, the issue was discussed in Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament. The protests spread across Saurashtra region. Twelve Dalit youth attempted suicide in protest across the region and one of them died. Twelve people including seven police personnel were injured in the protest and one of them died.[10] Bystanders who attempted to interfere were also beaten.[2]

Jignesh Mevani, an activist, led the protest march called Dalit Asmita Yatra from Ahmedabad to Una which culminated on 15 August 2016 which was attended by some 20,000 Dalits, including women, who took a pledge to give up their traditional jobs of removing cow carcasses. He demanded the land for upliftment of Dalits.[11][12] In August 2016, 10 Dalits were injured and vehicles were torched when a mob attacked them returning from Una after attending a flag-hoisting ceremony to mark the end their 10-day Azadi Kooch (freedom march). The government denied the incident.[13]

The government had filed 74 cases against the protesters.[14]

Other incident[edit]

On 25 April 2018, two of the victims of the Una incident were again attacked by one of the accused who was out on bail. They were returning from shopping in Una in preparation for their conversion to Buddhism.[15][16]

Arrests[edit]

The Gujarat Crime Investigation Department (CID) arrested 43 people in September 2016 including two minors and four police officers. Later, 35 of them were released on bail and one arrested police officer died of jaundice in September 2017. The prime accused was released on bail on the condition of not entering the limits of Una. Thirty-four of them were charged for attempt to murder, robbery, kidnapping, assault to dishonour person, wrongful confinement, rioting, hurting by weapon and criminal conspiracy. They were also charged for atrocities and recording the video of the incident. The charge sheet was filed in December 2016.[15]

The trial started in August 2018.[17]

Government response[edit]

Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel visited Mota Samadhiyala and promised that the victims would be given Below Poverty Line cards, housing plots, five-acre agricultural land and government jobs. However, in 2018, the BJP government told the Gujarat Legislative Assembly that there was no record of the promises. Jignesh Mevani, who had asked the question in the Assembly, accused the state government of reneging on its promise.[18]

The victims had protested with hunger strike against the government and sought mercy killing for not fulfilling the promise.[14][19]

In popular culture[edit]

The 2019 Hindi film Article 15 portrayed the flogging incident.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Dalit Family Stripped, Beaten As 'Gau Raksha' Vigilantism Continues". The Wire. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  2. ^ a b c d "Killed Allegedly By 'Cow Protectors', Justice Eludes the Family of Mustain Abbas". The Wire. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  3. ^ "Minorities Commission Sees 'Brazen Communal Bias' in Jharkhand Police Handling of Latehar Lynching". The Wire. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  4. ^ "Vigilantes in Rajasthan beat up trio of 'cow transporters', strip one". Hindustan Times. 2016-06-03. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  5. ^ a b "4 Dalits stripped, beaten up for skinning dead cow". The Times of India. 13 July 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Old enmity behind flogging of Dalit youths in Una: Fact-finding team". Hindustan Times. 22 July 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Dalits thrashed for skinning cow: Two accused arrested as protests continue in Una". The Indian Express. 14 July 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  8. ^ "Four Una Dalit Victims Who Were Earlier Discharged, Have Now Been Hospitalised Again". ScoopWhoop. 28 July 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  9. ^ Rajkot, Amol (2017). "Una Video and the Political Economy of Social Media" (PDF). Intellectual Resonance : DCAC Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies. 3: 133–143.
  10. ^ "Gujarat: Violence in Saurashtra kills policeman, Dalit youth commits suicide". The Indian Express. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  11. ^ Pathak, Maulik (2016-10-07). "We plan to take our fight to other parts of India: Jignesh Mevani". livemint.com/. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  12. ^ "The Leader Of The Fledgling Dalit Uprising In Gujarat Is Determined To Not Let It Die". Huffington Post India. 2016-08-04. Archived from the original on 2017-06-22. Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  13. ^ "Dalits 'attacked' by mob near Una, Gujarat govt denies any violence". Hindustan Times. 2016-08-15. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  14. ^ a b "Una Dalit victims seek mercy killing, write to President, say 'government didn't fulfill promises'". The Indian Express. 2018-11-28. Retrieved 2019-06-06.
  15. ^ a b "Two Years Later, Una Flogging Incident Victims Attacked Again". The Wire. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  16. ^ Dhar, Damayantee. "Two Years Later, Una Flogging Incident Victims Attacked Again". The Wire. The Wire. Retrieved 10 April 2020.
  17. ^ "Una Flogging Case – No Protection For Witnesses, 21 of 43 Accused Out on Bail". NewsClick. 2019-02-16. Retrieved 2019-06-06.
  18. ^ "Gujarat Assembly: Govt says no record of land and job promises made to Una Dalit victims". The Indian Express. 2018-03-21. Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  19. ^ "Una Flogging Victims Protest Outside Government Office, One Falls Sick in Scorching Heat". NewsClick. 2019-05-07. Retrieved 2019-06-06.