Ahmedabad: Police have arrested 22 people in connection with the attack on Dalits returning to Bhavnagar after attending a protest rally in Una town in which cops were also targeted.
The attack took place last evening at Samter village near Una, about 350km from Ahmedabad. The policemen came under attack when they tried to control the violent mob that targeted the Dalits. The attackers were residents of Samter, around 11km from Una town in Gir-Somnath district
"After the rally, anti-social elements blocked the road near Samter when Dalits were returning. They attacked a group of Dalits. We lobbed 46 teargas shells, fired six rounds in the air and used batons to disperse the mob," Gir-Somnath Superintendent of Police H R Chaudhary said today.
"We have arrested 22 people for the attack," he said.
According to Una Police Inspector H G Vaghela, those arrested have been booked on charges of rioting and assaulting Dalits as well as policemen.
Some of them have also been booked for attempt to murder, said Vaghela, who was injured while trying to control the mob.
At least 12 Dalits were injured and around eight of them suffered severe wounds.
The victims claimed that the residents of Samter attacked them to avenge the arrest of 12 people of the village in connection with last month's Una Dalit flogging case.
They said of the 30-odd people arrested till date in the Dalit thrashing case, 12 hail from Samter, located near Mota Samadhiyala, where cow vigilantes assaulted a group of Dalits for allegedly skinning a dead cow.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela said the incident shows there is a breakdown of law and order in the BJP-ruled State.
"Yesterday's attack on Dalits proves there is complete lawlessness in Gujarat. Law and order does not exist in Gujarat. Not just Dalits, members of Patel community, women as well as tribals are targeted regularly in Gujarat," Vaghela told reporters.
Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel hit back, saying the main Opposition party is raising such issues for political mileage and with an eye on the 2017 Assembly election.
"People very well know this Government has taken stringent action in the Dalit flogging case. But, Congress is trying to gain political mileage in the wake of 2017 polls by raising even small and insignificant issues. Such acts are tarnishing Gujarat's image," said Patel.