Six Out Of Eight Named By Family Detained
Rajesh Sondarva a 20-year-old dalit man, was brutally killed in Rajkot district, Gujarat on May 21. A group of eight men belonging to Darbar caste allegedly thrashed him and left him on road. In accordance with Rural Police of Rajkot, a night patrolling team found Sondarva crying for help at around 12.30 a.m on the outskirts of Manekwada, Kotada taluka, his village. As per Rajkot Rural Police, Sondarva was bleeding due to severe injuries from both his legs.
Eventually, Sondarva succumbed to his injuries at around 5 a.m on May 22 during his treatment.
Noticeably Rajesh Sondarva’s father, Nanji Sondarva, who was an RTI activist was killed by members of the same family a year back.
The deceased Rajesh alias Raju was the son of Nanji Sondarva, the RTI activist who has murdered in the same village in March last year. Sondarva, a Dalit was murdered, allegedly for seeking information on financial irregularities in construction of road, by Rajput community members.
Those who attacked Rajesh, a student of city-based Virani High School, are reportedly sons of some of the people arrested for killing his father.
Rajesh, who stayed in M G Hostel in Rajkot, He had gone home for vacation. On Tuesday night, he and his friend Milan Parmar were returning home on a two-As soon as the news of his death spread, angry Dalit community members blocked the roads at Hospital Chowk near the statue of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Police had a tough time controlling the crowd and traffic was stopped on several roads.
Dalit leader and MLA wheeler when a group of people intercepted them near Bapa Sitaram temple and started thrashing Rajesh with sticks and pipes. While Milan ran away from the spot, a critically injured Rajesh was brought to Rajkot Civil Hospital, where he succumbed early on Wednesday morning.
“A year back, members of same family had killed Nanji Sondarva, father of Rajesh Sondarva and an RTI activist who had raised voice against the upper caste (Darbar) family who happen to be socially and politically powerful in the area. The family was living in fear ever since Nanji was killed as accused were released on bail,” added Parmar.
Noticeably, an initial FIR was registered against six accused for attempt to murder but after Sondarva passed away, the local police registered a case of murder against eight accused.
“Nanji was murdered by fathers and uncles of the accused of the current case. The two families have been into a feud since Nanji Sondarva exposed the accused family of financial irregularities in government schemes through RTI,” an official of the Rajkot Rural Police stated.
Noticeably, Mahendrasinh Jadeja, the sarpanch of the village and one of the members of the accused family is the prime accused in the Naji Sondarva murder case.
“The police had deployed personnel outside Sondarva’s house since the murder of Nanji. However, Rajesh Sondarva had gone somewhere and was attacked on his way back home. Police have found that Rajesh Sondarva’s legs were brutally thrashed and prima facie it seems he died because of profuse bleeding,” Balram Meena, Superintendent of Police, Rajkot district told the media.
“Six of eight accused have already been arrested,” added Meena.
Nanjibhai had complained about the misappropriation of village funds
Then Nanjibhai realised that money was being siphoned off from water schemes. Then he filed RTIs to get the details of the various schemes and on the basis of the reports filed a case in the court about misappropriation of public funds – especially with schemes related to sanitation and the construction of toilets.
Jog said once Nanjibhai was called to a meeting by the officials and locked up and beaten in the presence of the Block Development Officer. He then called in the police and filed three complaints about receiving threats from the village strongmen.
However, the police did not act. Just before his murder, Jog said, Nanjibhai also made a live Facebook video in which he narrated how corruption had taken place. He also expressed the fear that he may be killed and while he was going from his village to Rajkot to visit Rajesh he was murdered.
Following the incident, Jignesh Mevani, independent MLA from Vadgam, along with other dalit activists have been occupying lobby outside chamber of Rajkot district collector. Mevani has also met the Collector in presence of Sandeep Singh, Deputy Inspector General of police, Rajkot.
Mevani has demanded a special investigation team to prove Rajesh Sondarva’s murder and include one of three names that will be suggested by family or probe be handed over to CID- Crime, special rehabilitation package for victims family beyond provisions of SC/ST Act, enough police protection to victims family, government job for younger brother of Rajesh Sondarva and departmental action against Shruti Mehta, Deputy Superintendent of Police investigating murder of Nanji Sondarva.
Jignesh Mewani, who reached Rajkot on Wednesday evening, warned that Rajesh’s body will be taken to chief minister Vijay Rupani’s residence on Thursday morning if the state government fails to meet their demands.
Talking to TOI, superintendent of police, Rajkot rural, Balram Meena, said, “We have detained six out of the eight persons named by Rajesh’s family and they are being interrogated. They are the sons of those accused of killing his father Nanji Sondarva last year.”
Six people of Rajput community were arrested in this murder case but they got bail from Gujarat high court few months ago.
Nanjibhai was the 11th RTI activist to be murdered in Gujarat
Following the murder of Nanjibhai, Delhi-based RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak had written how Nanjibhai’s murder was the 11th of an RTI activist for questioning the “Gujarat Model of Development”.
He had stated that Nanjibhai was killed soon after he filed an RTI application demanding transparency about funds spent on the construction of a road in his village. “This was not the first time Nanjibhai had been attacked. He and other members of his family were allegedly assaulted one and a half years ago, by the village Sarpanch who was said to be furious at Nanjibhai for using RTI to expose financial irregularities in the developmental works undertaken in the village,” Nayak had written.
He hand then also noted that apart from 11 RTI activists who were killed, there were at least 16 cases of assault on other RTI activists in Gujarat reported in various media sources since October, 2005 when the RTI Act was operationalised.
Talking to media persons, Mewani said, “Police should provide the protection to the victim’s family and fulfil all other demands like job and land for the family. If our demand is not met by Thursday morning, we will be forced to take his body at CM’s house in Rajkot at 10am.”
Mewani also sought investigation into this case by CID (crime) or a special investigation team and that the community must have a say in appointment of one officer in the probe team.
Out of the total 1,500 population in Manekwada, there are 150 Patel families, 35-40 Rajput families and around 15-20 Dalit household