Banaskantha: Dalit woman ‘harassed’ by upper caste men, families clash, both sides lodge FIRs

As per the FIR, the 23-year-old woman was on her way to daily farm work at around 10 am on September 28 when she was interrupted and harassed by six Patel men from her village.

An alleged harassment of a 23-year-old Dalit woman led to a clash between her family and the accused from an upper caste in Raiya village of Banaskantha district on September 28. Both sides filed FIRs against each other the same day. Independent MLA from the district, Jignesh Mevani, on Friday posted about the incident on social media and compared it with that of the “shaming of the victim family of Hathras” in Uttar Pradesh.

Speaking to this paper, Mevani said that while the incident was of September 28, it was brought to his attention on Friday by way of videos of the assault circulated and sent to him, by the family of the 23-year old woman.

As per the FIR, the 23-year-old woman was on her way to daily farm work at around 10 am on September 28 when she was interrupted and harassed by six Patel men from her village — Mahesh, Hasmukh, Arvind, Navin, Gopal and Bharat. Meanwhile, her brother, who was passing by on a tractor, warned the six men to not harass his sister. The six men along with others then started showering blows on the woman’s brother with sharp weapons, sticks, the FIR further stated. When the woman’s father intervened, he too suffered injuries in the process, as per the complaint.

By that evening, an FIR was registered at the Deodar police station, naming the six along with five of their family members for the assault. They were booked under IPC sections 323, 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by sharp weapons), 354 A (sexual harassment), 506(2) (criminal intimidation), 143 (unlawful assembly), 147, 148 (rioting, with armed weapons) as well as under offences pertaining to intimidation, humiliation, insult, abuses, sexual harassment under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The same day, one of the accused, Navin Patel (32), also filed an FIR, accusing the woman, her brother, father, mother and two other siblings of the woman of abusing and beating up the Patels following an altercation between the woman’s father and Navin’s father Bhaga.

The woman’s family was booked under the offences pertaining to IPC sections 326, 323,324 (voluntarily causing hurt by sharp weapons), 143, 149 (unlawful assembly), 147,148 (rioting, with armed weapons) and 294 (b) utterance of obscenity.

Banaskantha district SP, Tarun Kumar Duggal said, “The woman who belongs to a Scheduled Caste community had filed the FIR naming six accused of whom three have been arrested. The remaining three — Bhaga and his two sons Navin and Arvind — have not been arrested because they are admitted in a hospital. Bhaga is serious and may require a surgery owing to head injuries. It may be quite possible that he may not survive. Twenty unidentified people were also mentioned in the FIR. There was then a cross complaint filed by the Patel’s family, naming all six members of the woman’s family, alleging injury.”

“It is very clear from the video that the girl is being brutally assaulted. Regardless of what the history of the case or the families is, how can she be named as an accused (in the counter complaint) when she was at the receiving end of the assault?” Mevani said.

The woman’s brother said, “I have had to undergo a surgery and have had multiple stitches on my head. I have also suffered multiple fractures in my hand and legs. My father too is hospitalised with injuries as is my sister.”

Duggal said, “The woman’s family members are hospitalised but their medical certificates say ‘no injury’.”

The woman’s sister said, “They (Patel’s) have been harassing my father since long… they had also harassed him in May during the lockdown and we had approached the police then with a complaint but no action was taken.”

Duggal said the woman’s father had filed two complaints earlier against some Patel families in the village owing to “land related disputes.”

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