Four years after three Dalit youths were killed in police firing in Surendranagar district, the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat has decided to set up a Special Investigation Team to probe the incident, a move that came in the wake of outrage over Una Dalit flogging incident.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani took the decision to constitute the three-member SIT to investigate the incident after receiving several representations from Dalit leaders, including those from his party, an official release said on Saturday.
"Chief Minister Vijay Rupani took the decision following representations from Dalit leaders including cabinet minister Atmaram Parmar, former minister Ramanlal Vora, and Rajya Sabha MP Shambhuprasad Tundiya," Minister of State for Home Pradipsinh Jadeja said in a press release.
The government would also form a special designated court and appoint a special public prosecutor to expedite the case and announced an additional Rs 2 lakh compensation to the nearest kin of the victims, over and above what was decided earlier.
The opposition Congress reacted cautiously to the decision, saying it could turn out to be an "eyewash to mislead the people" and demanded that the government table the report of an earlier CID probe into the incident.
On the intervening night of September 22-23, 2012, three Dalit youths -- Pankaj Sumra, Prakash Parmar and Mehul Rathod -- were killed when police opened fire to disperse a violent mob to control a clash between Dalits and OBC Bharwad community members at Thangadh town in Surendranagar district.
The government had ordered a probe into the incident and a report was submitted to it by the then principal secretary of social justice and empowerment department, Sanjay Prasad. The report has not yet been made public.
The issue of Thangadh Police firing came in focus in the wake of recent Una town Dalit flogging incident with opposition leaders and Dalit rights activists raking it up to target the BJP.
At a rally held by Una Dalit Atyachar Padkar Samiti, which organised a march from Ahmedabad to Una, Dalit leaders have demanded justice to victims of Thangadh firing.
Family members of victims of Thangadh had also gone on hunger strike in Gandhinagar, demanding a judicial probe into the incident.
Rajkot city police commissioner Anupam Singh Gehlot, Surat city DCP Zone-2, Parikshita Rathod, and Porbandar Superintendent of Police Tarun Kumar Duggal will be members of the SIT.
The state CID investigation in the case remained inconclusive after the state probe agency filed a C-summary report. No chargesheet has been filed yet into the incident.
Thangadh, located around 65 km from Rajkot,is famous for the annual Tarnetar fair, held eight km from town near the temple of Trinetwshar Shiva temple.
Reacting to the government's announcement, the Congress said it appeared to be a move by the government to mislead people and shield the real culprits in the face of the agitation against atrocities on Dalits getting intensified.
"It has been a way with the BJP government that whenever agitation grows, it constitutes a committee to investigate an atrocity or a corruption case, mainly with the intention to mislead people and shield the real culprit. Such SITs only serve as an eyewash," Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.
"Good that the government has constituted an SIT to investigate Thangadh killings, but we would again demand from the government that the report of a previous investigation conducted by the state CID crime be placed on the table of the state assembly for discussion," he said.
Atrocities on Dalits have come in sharp focus after seven persons from the community from Mota Samadhiyala village of Una tehsil of Gir Somnath district were brutally assaulted by some self-styled cow vigilantes for skinning a dead cow on July 11.
The incident sparked wide-spread protests after videos of the beating went public.
Several political leaders like Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo supremo Mayawati had visited the victims in the hospital and their family members.