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Politicians and activists spread fake news by Indian Express claiming that a Dalit ration shopkeeper is facing discrimination in Gujarat: Here are the facts

There is no truth in the allegations that villagers are not buying from the shop because it is run by a Dalit. They were buying from the same shop earlier but stopped later due to unavailability of adequate stock and the shopkeeper's threat of case under SC-ST Act after arguments

It is being claimed in the media and social media that there has been caste discrimination against a Dalit shopkeeper in a village in Gujarat. It is being told that in the Kanosan village of Saraswati taluka of Patan district, people refused to take grains from the ration shop run by a Dalit man and then the collector transferred their ration cards to the shop in a nearby village. However, the entire claim is false and misleading.

This whole matter is being given the angle of Savarna versus Dalit. Many posts about this were also seen on social media. Dilip Mandal shared an article in ‘The Indian Express’ and wrote, “Those who cannot buy ration from Dalit shopkeepers, how will they make a Hindu nation? They can not even make a Hindu village.”

Apart from this, many such posts were seen. Hitendra Pithadiya, who heads the Scheduled Caste cell of the Congress and has been in controversy for spreading fake news in the past, quoted The Indian Express report and wrote, ‘This is a Hindu Rashtra, which follows the Gujarat model of hatred, violence and discrimination’. He further claimed that all the villagers were Hindus and that they collectively boycotted a Dalit shopkeeper running a ration shop. He then made other comments asking who gave the collector the power to pass this order and why the collector was promoting casteism.

There were also some media reports in which the issue has been given a Dalit versus Savarna angle. The Telangana Today report, titled ‘In Modi’s Gujarat, officials openly support casteism against Dalit’, begins with a question that read, “Is the government machinery in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home State of Gujarat openly supporting casteism by validating the economic boycott of a Dalit by ‘upper caste’ villagers?”

The report by Telangana Today. Image Source: Telangana Today

The report further quoted “reports from Ahmedabad” as saying that the Patan district collector has advised 436 ration card holders of Kanosan village in Saraswati taluka to purchase ration from nearby Endla village so that they do not have to buy grains from a rationing shop run by a Dalit man in the village. It was also written that most of the ration card holders, who belong to the Thakor community, had stopped buying grains from the cheap grain shops of Dalits for the last 18 months. Citing reports, it was said that two years ago, the controversy started when the shopkeeper refused to give food grains to a Thakor.

Taking forward the narrative of Savarna versus Dalits, the report highlights how alleged “atrocities” against Dalits are on the rise in Modi’s Gujarat. The same was reinforced by citing an RTI reply. Nowhere in the report does the villagers mention why they boycotted the shopkeeper.

Some reports were also seen in the Gujarati media. News18 Gujarati’s report begins with this – “Caste discrimination is allegedly seen in many areas even today. Recently, the case of Kanosan village in Saraswati taluka of Patan district has come to light”, it said. It added, “The villagers did not take rations from the ration shop operated by a Dalit. In the midst of this situation, the Patan district collector transferred all the 436 ration card holders of the village to the adjoining village Adla.” The report also said that the village is dominated by the Thakor community. TV9 Gujarati also reported with the headline ‘Kanosan village of Patan in disputes regarding caste discrimination’.

The Indian Express report’s headline is misleading, the report itself says that there is no discrimination

All these social media posts and reports are based on a report by The Indian Express, which was published on September 21, 2023. The headline of this report is misleading, which strengthened the narrative of Savarna against Dalits. The headline is – “In Gujarat, villagers won’t buy ration from Dalit’s shop, collector transfers all cards to nearby village”. (Archive link) But this report itself shows that there is nothing like casteism and the villagers stopped buying grains because they were not getting enough food grains.

The Indian Express report quoted the collector’s order according to which the villagers alleged that they were not getting food grains on time and that the quantity of food grains fixed by the government during the time of Corona pandemic was also not being given in adequate quantity. When villagers complained to shopkeeper Kanti Parmar, he threatened to implicate them by filing a case under the ST/SC Act. He eventually complained to the local administration.

The same report also quoted statements from shopkeeper Kanti Parmar and some villagers. According to this, the villagers accused Kanti Parmar of filing a false case and said that this was the reason why they did not go to his ration shop to buy the food grains. Kanti, on the other hand, denied the allegations.

“After receiving complaints from the villagers that they were not getting enough food grains from the ration shop and the shopkeeper was threatening to trap them, we demanded that the ration card be transferred to a nearby village,” said the village sarpanch.

The Indian Express report. Image Source: The Indian Express

To resolve the dispute, the district administration had recorded statements of a total of 268 ration card holders in the village, out of which 260 had sought permission to purchase ration from a neighbouring village. In March, the mamlatdar of Saraswati village had also held a meeting with the villagers and a similar demand was made in it. Subsequently, the district collector issued an order allowing 436 ration card holders of the village to purchase ration from nearby Endla village.

The dispute was going on for 2 years, and fearing the threat of filing a case under the SC/ST Act, the villagers stopped buying grains

Divya Bhaskar’s report says that this dispute between the ration card holders and the shopkeeper has been going on for the last two years. Police cases have also been filed against each other in the same controversy. The controversy started over the allotment of quantity of foodgrains received as per the rule. The report also said that when customers raised their voices over enough food grains, the shopkeeper threatened to implicate them by filing a case under the ST/SC Act. Due to this, consumers started buying grains from nearby villages. The dispute eventually reached Gandhinagar. After this, the collector transferred the ration card holders to the nearby village so that the dispute did not escalate further and no untoward incident took place in the village.

Therefore, there is no truth in the allegations that villagers are not buying from the shop because it is run by a Dalit. They were buying from the same shop earlier but stopped later due to the unavailability of adequate stock and the shopkeeper’s threat of case.

The Gujarat government also clarified that the action was taken not due to caste discrimination, but because of the complaints of the villagers.

It has also been clarified by the Food and Civil Supplies Department of the Government of Gujarat that the decision to transfer the cards of the ration card holders of Kanosan village is not the result of any caste discrimination. A statement about The Indian Express report said that on August 21, 2021, the villagers lodged a complaint alleging that the shopkeeper was not giving enough food grains and misbehaving. The complaints were then found to be genuine when the matter was investigated by the mamlatdar of Saraswati taluka. On the other hand, fed up with the shopkeeper’s behaviour, ration card holders started buying food grains from other places.

“After extensive scrutiny, inconsistency and discrepancy in the stock of the shop were found, resulting in the seizure of material worth Rs 51,397 and transfer of ration card holders to nearby Endla village to address the concerns of the consumers,” it added.

Denying the allegations of any kind of discrimination against the shopkeeper, the state government said that the action was taken not as a result of any kind of discrimination but in response to a complaint filed against the shopkeeper. The purpose of shifting cardholders who buy food grains from ration shops to nearby villages was to ensure that they get an adequate quantity of food grains on time and that the loopholes identified during the investigation could be removed.

OpIndia also tried to contact the District Supply Officer of Patan to get more information on the matter, but no contact could be established. The report will be updated once a response is received.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Meghalsinh Parmar
Meghalsinh Parmar
A Journalist. Deputy Editor- OpIndia Gujarati. Not an author but love to write.

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