The Una Dalit atrocity case, that shook the collective conscience of the nation, now faces the risk of going into cold storage like thousands of other pending cases that are yet to see the light of the day. It was only two months ago that the proceedings in the infamous case had begun after a long wait of two years and 22 days. Now, the victims fear that the special public prosecutor appointed for them may withdraw from the case citing lack of security, leaving them in the lurch till a new one is appointed and the case regains traction at the Veraval special atrocity court.
Their sense of fear is not misplaced. It was only in April, in a brazen display of disregard for the law, that the accused had allegedly attacked the victims again. It could happen yet again. If only the government took proactive measures to ensure the victims and those fighting for them were protected at all times, but that is apparently too much to ask for. So, the victims on Monday met Home Department officials to put forth a memorandum of requests.
These mainly include travelling security personnel because the guards currently deployed are only for the protection of their homes; a vehicle for travel due to insufficient funds; fast tracking of the court case as it has again devolved into adjournments just two months after it started, and working facilities to special public prosecutor Dipendra Yadav so that he is not forced to quit.
They say that if Yadav quits, it would lead to a new prosecutor being appointed and the case being dragged on and could also mean release of six accused currently in Rajkot jail. They have also asked for the government to approach Supreme Court to cancel the bails of accused.
The case dates back to July 11, 2016, when a group of self-styled gau rakshaks had allegedly thrashed six Dalits of a family and their neighbour, residents of Mota Samadhiyala village of Una. The indication of a possible halt in the proceedings comes just two months after hearings in the case began on August 3. Speaking to Mirror,victim Vasram Sarvaiya said, “We could not meet Home Minister Pradipsinh Jadeja, but met officials of home and law departments. We informed them of our apprehensions about the case dragging on and about the family members having to travel without security.
We have already been attacked once by an accused.” Mirror reached out to Special Public Prosecutor Dipendra Yadav who refused to comment on prospects of him recusing himself from the case but did say, “I have informed the CID Crime about potential threat to the lives of the victims in the Una atrocity case.” CID Crime is the agency that headed the probe in the case. Ashish Bhatia, DGP of CID Crime, told Mirror, “Security matters do not fall under our jurisdiction. It is the onus of local or district police to provide the same.”
Rahul Tripathi, the SP of Gir-Somnath district, told Mirror, “We have provided them with security at their house and they travel with them during court proceedings. There is currently no provision for security while members are moving out for personal reasons.”
‘Guards come along only if we arrange for their vehicle’
Currently, four guards are deployed at the victims’ residence. Victim Vasram Sarvaiya said, “They accompany us to the court only if we make arrangements for their transport. Otherwise they don’t. On October 12, they did not come along. We travelled 153 km on a bike to the court and that too without security. That is the reason we requested the government to give us a vehicle to take us to the court and back.”
Asked if the security can be increased, Tripathi said, “This can be updated as and when the DGP’s office decides following risk assessment that it is necessary. No such order has yet been received.”
Govind Parmar, an advocate representing the Sarvaiya family, said, “We fear that not giving adequate protection to the public prosecutor could result in his leaving the case which could then lead to the case dragging on till another one is appointed. We also fear that this in turn could lead to the accused getting bail and the victims being put in danger again.”
Ilesh J Vora, Secretary to Law Department said, “I have received the memorandum from Una atrocity victims. If there is merit in the problems faced either by the prosecutor or the victims regarding the case, we will make sure it is solved at the earliest. However, the security issue will be dealt with by the Home Department.” “The matter of the Una vic-tims has not come to my attention today. However, when I do get it, I will act upon it immediately,” said Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja.
Mirror had on April 27, 2018 reported that Ramesh and Ashok Sarvaiya were allegedly attacked by Kiransinh Darbar, an accused in the Una case, when they were returning from Una city to Mota Samadhiyala village after shopping for their upcoming conversion to Buddhism, which took place on April 29. Another case under the Atrocity Act was filed against Darbar at Una police station.
Ramesh Sarvaiya, one of the victims, said, “Ashok and I have already been attacked again by one of the accused who was on bail. At the moment, 36 of 43 accused are out on bail. We dread to think what will happen if the others are also given bail just due to the length of the trial.”
Six accused are in custody in Rajkot Jail, 36 are on bail, one is dead. Even accused Kiransinh Darbar who was arrested after the second attack on the family is out on bail, said Govind Parmar.
Una atrocity case of 2016
On July 11, 2016, the miscreants thrashed Balu Sarvaiya, his wife Kunwar and Devarshi Bhanubhai who had come to the family’s rescue. They also thrashed Balubhai’s sons Vasram and Ramesh, as well as their relatives Ashok and Bechar. They then proceeded to strip, flog and drag the four youths half-naked behind their SUV.
-> We informed law and home departments of our apprehensions about us having to travel without security. We have already been attacked once by an accused
->Security matters do not fall under our jurisdiction. It is the onus of local or district police to provide the same
-> We fear that not giving adequate protection to the public prosecutor may result in his leaving the case which could delay it further
-> The matter pertaining to Una victims has not come to my attention today. However, when I do get it, I will act upon it immediately