The Surat rural police Monday arrested three people, including two farmers and a JCB driver, for allegedly hurting religious sentiments after they dug up a graveyard of the Mahyavanshi (Dalit) community in the district’s Mangrol taluka.
The two accused farmers — Sandipsinh Jadav and Bhupendrasinh Ghadra — both residents of the Kantwa village where the alleged incident happened, own farming lands adjacent to the graveyard of the Mahyavanshi community on the outskirts of the village.
Police said the farmers, who had to travel a longer distance to reach their farmlands, tried to circumvent by making a pathway through the graveyard a few days ago. The JCB driver Hira Bharwad allegedly dug up the graveyard land upon the farmers’ orders.
The Mahyavanshi community members gathered together and tried to oppose and stop the work with the help of community leaders residing in the entire Mangrol taluka.
They also alerted the police about the incident. A police team reached the spot and found an area of around 100-meters-long, 2-feet-depth and 20-feet-broad dug up.
Upon verifying the details, the Kosamba police registered a case filed by Laxman Parmar, a Kantwa resident, against Jadav, Ghadra and Bharwad, under IPC Sections 295, 297, 114 and the Atrocity Act Sections 3(1)(t) and 3(2)(5,a) Sunday. All the three accused, who belong to Rajput and Rabari communities, were arrested Monday, and have been sent to judicial custody at the Surat Central Jail.
“The total area of the Mahyavanshi community graveyard is only 3 bigah and is on the outskirts of the village. The farming lands of both the accused fall on the other side of the graveyard. The land, registered in the Gram Panchayat records, was allotted to the community that does not carry out cremation but buries the bodies of the dead. My forefathers are buried in the land,” complainant Parmar told The Indian Express.
“This is not the first time the villagers had attempted to do something like this. Similar acts took place in 2008, 2012, 2015, and 2019. During all such instances, a meeting was carried out in the presence of the village sarpanch, and the issue was sorted out. We have never reported it to the police. But they have been repeatedly involved in committing such acts. So, this time we decided to approach the police and registered a case. We wanted to teach a lesson that such mistakes will not be entertained again,” he said.
The Kantwa village has a population of around 2,300 people, of which around 20 houses belong to the Mahyavanshi community. The other residents of the village are from the tribal, Rajput and Patel communities.
Deputy Superintendent of Surat Rural police Bhargav Pandya said the police nabbed the accused after finding the complaint to be genuine. “We have verified the allegations made by the accused and found it genuine. The land has been allotted to the Mahyavanshi community long back by gram panchayat through a resolution,” he said.
Raju Vasava, the village Sarpanch, said Jadav and Ghadra had not sought permission from the Gram Panchayat or Sarpanch to carry out the work. “This act has been repeating and earlier, the issue was sorted out with mutual consent in the presence of elected members of gram panchayat,” said the village sarpanch.