Ahmedabad: Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the caste politics have heightened in the state with Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani threatening to shut down North Gujarat. Tension began to simmer in the region on Monday when a 17-year-old Dalit student was tied to a tree and mercilessly beaten up by two people on suspicion of having an affair with a girl of upper caste.
The class 12 student from Mehsana town was going to take his board exam when the duo caught him and thrashed him on a field. The incident sent shockwaves across the community after the boy's pictures went viral.
The victim, a resident of Dhanodarda village in Patan district, was admitted at Mehsana civil hospital following the physical assault.
"I had reached the examination centre, Sarvajanik Vidya Mandir High School in Dhinoj village, by state transport bus around 1 pm. While waiting outside the exam centre, Ramesh Patel, whom I recognise only by face, came to me. He asked me to come along with him as he had some work. He took me to another person, who was waiting with a motorcycle. They both rode me to a nearby farm in Gorad village," the victim stated in the FIR. He added that Patel works as a conductor on a state transport bus.
The student said that he requested the men to let him go as he would miss his English exam, but the duo asked him not to worry as they would soon drop him at the examination hall. "Later, they took me to a farm, tied me to a tree and began beating me with a stick," he said.
The boy's mother said that when her son asked the men the reason for their behaviour, they "abused him and said that he should not study but do labour work". His mother works at a plywood factory in Mehsana, and the family had shifted to the town due to her job.
Talking about the incident, Dalit rights activist Subodh Kumund told News18, "We visited him two days ago and found out that members from the upper caste suspected that the teen may have an affair with an upper caste girl, and therefore, they atrociously beat him up. This is horrible and we will fight against this caste atrocity."
The incident sparked outrage among Dalits in the state. Dalit leader and independent MLA from Gujarat's Vadgam constituency, Jignesh Mevani, termed the incident as Gujarat's "celebration of Holi with the blood of Dalit youth".
"This time, on the festival of Holi, they (BJP) played with the blood of Dalits. He was almost paralyzed and not able to utter a single word. He was even scared to file a complaint against them. Those casteist elements who mercilessly beat him up had a doubt that he was in an affair with a girl of their family. It doesn't matter if someone has an affair," Mevani said, who visited the victim at the hospital on Wednesday.
"We found out that he was beaten up by these criminals because it was suspected that the teen was friends with a girl studying in class 11, and she was related to the two miscreants. Angered by the possibility of a Dalit boy going around with a woman of another caste, the relatives beat him up. He was not only stopped from taking his English exam, but was threatened to not give the upcoming exam March 22. They also threatened to kill him if he writes the exam," Mevani claimed.
The MLA warned that if no arrests were made in this case, his team would ensure that no BJP leader is able to garland the statue of Baba Saheb Ambedkar on April 14. He also threatened to launch a protest if the accused are not arrested in the next 48 hours.
According to sources, after he was beaten, the teen did not take his exam and returned home by taking a private taxi. He did not inform anyone till Wednesday when his mother saw the injury marks on his back as he was taking a bath.
On her inquiry, he narrated her the entire episode, after which he was taken to Mehsana civil hospital and an FIR was registered under IPC sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 341 (wrongful restraint), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 506 (2) (criminal intimidation) and 114 (abettor present when incident took place).