The Ahmedabad Police arrested at least 29 men from the city’s Chharanagar area early on Friday morning for allegedly rioting, pelting stones and injuring a police officer. The incident took place after two youths from the Chhara community in the neighbourhood allegedly assaulted Superintendent of Police DK Mori, who had gone to Chharanagar to raid illegal liquor outlets, the The Indian Express reported.
Gujarati news channel Zee 24 Kalak reported that the police had arrested 30 people from Chharanagar so far. “We are still investigating the case, but Mori was attacked last night,” officials from Ahmedabad’s Sardarnagar police station said.
Dakxin Chhara, a theatre artist and activist from Chharanagar’s Chhara community, claimed that the police “attack” on the residential colony was unwarranted. “The police have been raiding liquor sellers in our area for three months now, but last night it was not a raid - the police assaulted us,” said Chhara, who denied police claims of stone pelting on the part of the Chharanagar residents. “There was no stone pelting at all. An altercation took place between Mori and two Chhara boys, after which more than 400 policemen came to Chharanagar and began to assault anyone they saw on the streets.”
At least 25 people who were injured were arrested by the police when they went to the local civil hospital, said Chhara.
The theatre artist added that the violence began around midnight and continued till 5.30 am on Friday. He claimed the police smashed vehicles parked on the streets and even barged into people’s homes and beat them up. “My wife and I were at my mother-in-law’s place and the police broke the door and came in,” said Chhara. “They assaulted my 75-year-old mother-in-law and literally threw her across the room. They started attacking my wife too, and I was thrashed with batons when I intervened.”
Chhara claimed that theatre actor Atish Chhara was also beaten up by 10 policemen when he started photographing the injured on his phone. Atish Chhara is one of those detained by the police.
Abhishek Indrekar, an independent filmmaker and a member of the Chhara community, claimed that he saw police personnel attack Chharanagar residents without provocation through the night. “It was madness,” Indrekar said. “The police were assaulting anyone they saw on the road.”
The Chharas are a denotified tribe with a history of being labelled and targeted as a “criminal” community. While a section of the community in Chharanagar continues to be involved in bootlegging, many Chharas now take part in theatre and performance arts.