December 5, 2023

Following the refusal of villagers to purchase from a Dalit store, the collector of a district in Gujarat transferred all ration playing cards to a neighbouring village in a worrying incident of potential caste discrimination.

Conflicting accounts

Kanosan village, with a inhabitants of two,000, within the Saraswati tehsil of the Patan district in Gujarat, is dominated by the Thakor, or non-Dalit, group, and for round 18 months, nearly all of the villagers have refused to purchase necessities from the government-allocated honest value store (FPS) owned by Kanti Parmar, who occurs to be from the Dalit caste.

In consequence, the Patan district collector, Arvind Vijayan, ordered for all 436 ration playing cards allotted to the Dalit’s store in Kanosan to be directed to the FPS within the neighbouring village, Edla, on September 12.

The Thakors of the village, who make up greater than 90% of Kanosan’s inhabitants, had lobbed a number of allegations on Kanti, certainly one of them accusing him of attempting to cost them below the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocity) Act on false grounds. Kanti and his household have denied all allegations and have voiced their intention to query the validity of the collector’s order in courtroom.

What the order stated

Kanosan residents have additionally accused Kanti of not delivering grains correctly, with them being despatched late or not within the stipulated amount mounted by the federal government in the course of the pandemic. This led to the villagers ordering rations from the retailers within the neighbouring villages of Edla, Vagdod and Nayta for a few 12 months and a half. 

268 residents of the village have been questioned by the district administration—260 of them have been keen to purchase from a neighbouring FPS, whereas solely 8 acknowledged that they weren’t opposed to purchasing from Kanti’s store. Unsurprisingly, Kanti’s store has overseen a steady hunch within the distribution of rations—from 36.84% in March to eight.18% in June this 12 months.

With these factors in be aware, the order was issued that every one Kanosan rations playing cards can be transferred to Visabhai Rabari’s FPS in Edla, almost 1.5 km from Kanosan. Rabari was additional ordered to make sure well timed supply of the products at Kanosan itself. The order additionally contained Kanti’s statements, wherein he denied all allegations.

The Dalit compromise

Kanosan is a village the place ward members and the sarpanch aren’t elected, however as a substitute chosen by the villagers “by consensus”—the central characteristic of villages below the “Samras” scheme launched throughout Modi‘s reign as Gujarat’s chief minister. Samras villages are rewarded by monetary incentives, with Rs 2 lakhs for a village having a inhabitants under 5000, and Rs. 3 lakh for any village over that. The advantages obtain a 25% bump yearly if the village goes Samras for consecutive years.

Modi distributing incentive prizes to Samras villages in 2012 (Picture Supply:

The scheme was launched as a “finer and extra profitable mannequin of democracy” which geared toward changing “battle” with “governance by consensus” and “social concord”. Nevertheless, critics consider that the scheme solely labored to masks divisions and perpetuate privilege and dominance of 1 class over one other. 

Rekha, Kanti’s spouse and member of the Kanosan Gram Panchayat stated that the Dalit group supported the transfer to enrol the village below the Samras scheme in December 2021. In consequence, no Dalit candidate stood up for elections, however Rekha now felt that the Dalits have been betrayed.

Kanti’s account

Kanti, who has been working the store for round three a long time, recounted that his feud with the Thakors began round 2-3 years in the past, when he denied ration to a member of the group, as he was possessing an ineligible ration card. This, he stated, provoked the Thakors into launching a smear marketing campaign on him, whereas urging and threatening their group members to do the identical and boycott him.

In accordance with Kanti, the Thakors claimed that the boycott was a results of Kanti allegedly submitting false instances below the Atrocity Act towards them. He denied these allegations, noting that the handful of complaints made by him and different Dalit residents have been in response to atrocities perpetrated towards them. Apart from one case, the Dalits and the Thakors reached a compromise through help of some leaders, he stated.

The exception was a case regarding Kanti trying suicide in Could. He took poison at a public park within the city of Patan and whereas he was saved, his leg needed to be amputated as a result of poison’s impact. This prompted Mukesh, Kanti’s son, to cost 4 Thakors, who allegedly ran the boycott marketing campaign towards Kanti whereas additionally furnishing false statements to be able to get his store’s license cancelled, with abetment of suicide. 

Guj village boycotts Dalit’s ration shop - Asiana Times
A hospitalised Kanti (left), with a suicide be aware (proper) (Picture Supply: VTV Gujarati)

Prakashji Thakor, Genaji Thakor, Lakhaji Thakor and Jaktaji Thakor have been initially arrested, however later have been launched on bail after a classes courtroom listening to in Patan. 

Villagers suspect “conspiracy”

Kamraji Thakor (45), who owns a flour mill within the village, stated that he hasn’t been shopping for from Kanti’s store for 2 years and accused him of submitting false complaints below the Atrocity Act, which allegedly led to an elder girl from the household serving a jail sentence of a month. Popatji Thakor accused Kanti of “conspiracy”, and likewise justified his determination to boycott his store, claiming that he needed to go to jail for 8 days.

Kanosan Sarpanch Raghu Thakor asserted that the demand to shift the ration playing cards from Kanti’s FPS to neighbouring ones stemmed from villagers complaining concerning the insufficient supply of ration, together with false instances lodged towards them. Raghu is the grandson of former sarpanch Jaktaji Thakor, one of many 4 named in Mukesh’s grievance in Could.

After “inner inquiry” and “opposition from the villagers”, the order was handed, in keeping with District Collector Arvind Vijayan. District Provide Officer, D S Ninama echoed Vijayan’s statements, whereas including that the choice was solely made after listening to each side. He added that Kanti can be given the chance to put down his case to the collector, who would then determine whether or not to cancel the licence of Kanti’s ration store or not.

Kanti stated that his three sons have been pushing him to take the case to courtroom. Mukesh, who assists his father on the Kanosan FPS, stated {that a} courtroom case was their final resort to be able to defend their solely technique of livelihood. Even his household’s ration playing cards have been transferred to the FPS in Edla.