INDIA: A lower-caste family faces social boycott to pressure them to leave


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-104-2009
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Caste-based discrimination, Land rights, Police negligence, Police violence, Threats and intimidation,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from Navsarjan, a human rights organisation based in Gujarat that the only Valmiki (lowest Dalit sub-caste) family living in Shampara (also known as Khodiyar) village is in danger of being forced out from their home. This action is due to a boycott imposed on them by the community. The boycott, instituted by the higher caste residents, ostracises the family socially and economically. Valmikis are considered the most ‘unclean’ of all Dalits and the attempt to force them out is on pretext that they would ‘pollute’ other caste.


Valmikis are considered the lowest in the hierarchy of Dalit sub-castes and untouchability is generally practiced against them even by Dalits themselves.  In many villages Valmikis have to live separately from the other Dalit communities, who are already segregated from areas occupied by non-Dalits. The Shampara (also known as Khodiyar) village, in Shihor Taluka, Bhavnagar District, illustrates an exceptional case wherein the housing plot of the Valmiki families is located amongst the houses of dominant-caste families. The housing plot of a Valmiki-caste, the Sarvaiya family, is located adjacent to two Darbar (dominant-caste) houses. This proximity has led to many disputes between the Darbars and the Valmikis over the last two decades. For instance, the Valmiki’s adjacent Darbar neighbour had commenced a civil suit to take ownership of the plot of land where the Valmikis are living. The Sarvaiya family had to secure a court order to have the Darbar’s houses shut their windows overlooking the Sarvaiya family to protect the privacy of their women.

Before the social boycott, members of the Sarvaiya family performed agricultural work on Darbar land. The head of the family, Naranbhai Dayalbhai Sarvaiya, also performed his ‘caste duty’ by sounding drums during village meetings. Besides the untouchability practiced against the entire Dalit community, the Valmiki faces the plight of being discriminated against due to the practices of sub-caste untouchability by the other Dalits. Other Dalits have nothing to do with Valmiki.

Though the root cause of the social boycott is the closeness of the houses where upper-caste Darbars and the ‘unclean’ Valmikis are living, the most serious one was the dispute over the disposal of waste water.  The Sarvaiya family usually dispense the water they had used from washing and bathing to a hole in the ground. However, during the rainy season, the water overflowed onto the road, which was along the water from other homes of other castes. On September 9, 2008, the Darbars demanded that the Sarvaiya family divert the disposal of their waste water elsewhere but Naranbhai refused. He reasoned to them that like everyone else’s water, the water only runs off onto the road during rainy season, and the public road is used for this purpose by all. The family was then told that they could not live in this village.

Nine persons, all Darbars, physically attacked Naranbhai and his two sons, Danjibhai Naranbhai Sarvaiya and Dipakbhai Naranbhai Sarvaiya. The complainant, Danjibhai, required hospital care including two stitches after he was beaten with a stick. The women were verbally abused by casting derogatory words “bhangi” (derogatory slur for the Valmiki caste) on them. While the men went to the hospital, the women were continuously harassed. They were repeatedly told to leave the village.

After the incident, the village council (Panchayat) leader, a Darbar named Mahindra Singh Vikuba Gohila, called a community meeting in the village centre to discuss the dispute. Naranbhai was not asked to come sound the drums, as per the usual practice. The villagers met for three nights, and on September 15, 2008, it was decided that a social boycott would be instituted against the Sarvaiya family. The other villagers were ordered not to engage in any form of social or economic activity with the entire Sarvaiya family. The villagers were also told not to allow the Sarvaiyas from using any public resource or service. The social boycott was enforced by an oath sworn to whom the village temple is dedicated, the Mother of God. 

Two family members were able to keep jobs that they been holding for several years, which are located outside the village. Dipakbhai has been a teacher in a government school in Ramnagar for the last eight to nine years, while Danjibhai has been working for a food colouring company four kilometres away for the last 15 years. These two support the family of seven on their earnings. The rest of the family, however, remains unemployed.

The family has to travel to Sihore, 10 kilometers away, to obtain all the necessary goods and services. If they try to speak to anyone, they are cursed at and verbally abused. No one in the family feels safe, with constant pressure from the community to leave the village. There is no support from the other Dalit sub-castes, who themselves were too afraid to break the boycott. When the police came to investigate, the other castes told them that they should say there was no social boycott because fear of reprisal from the Darbars. Though there is a Dalit of the Vankar sub caste in the village council, he has shown no interest in aiding the Sarvaiya family. Furthermore, even the Valmikis themselves from other communities do not support the Sarvaiya family. They instead took the duty of banging the drums on Naranbhai stead.


A First Information Report (FIR) was registered at the Vartej Police Station on the day of the assault, September 9, 2008. However, the FIR was only registered under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, under Sections 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 114 (the presence of an abettor when the offence is committed); and Section 135 of the Bombay Police Act, 1951, a provision empowering the police to register cases against persons who wilfully disobey orders thereby contributing to social disarray and violence.

The police, as in many other past incidents, avoided registering a case under the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Had the case been registered under this law, the punishment would have been severe. Additionally, a crime registered under this law would have required the case to be investigated by a senior police officer and the case tried at a special court constituted under this law. The attempt of the police appears to be to register the cases under less serious provisions so as to force a compromise between the parties.

Meanwhile, the Darbars have filed a cross-complaint in the Mamlatdar for harassment and assault. Filing often frivolous cross-complaints is one way that dominant castes punish Dalits for contacting the authorities. They also push Dalits towards compromise instead of pursuing their case in court, where they would have the chance of gaining the protection and justice of the law that they are entitled to. It is also important to note that while the police officers and other authorities are eager to prosecute cases against Dalits, the pace of prosecution is strikingly different when it comes to Dalit making complaints.

The Sarvaiya family has received no government benefits, and has received no aid except from Navsarjan. Navsarjan workers went to Social Welfare Office (SWO) three times before the Social Welfare Officer visited the village in October 2008. Typical of someone with strong caste biases, the Officer refused to speak to the Sarvaiya family. Instead, he only looked at their housing land from outside and then went to the Panchayat. A petition was submitted to the Scheduled Caste Commission to order a declaration of the social boycott, but no response was given.

The difficulties experienced by Sarvaiya family in accessing justice and government aid have much to do with their caste identity as Valmiki Dalits. Caste bias is deeply embedded in Indian society and is reflected by the behaviour of police and other officials in delaying or otherwise mishandling cases brought forth by Dalits. Officials are sometimes either outright hostile or apathetic to the Dalit complainants. Only after pressure from activists or when a particular case receives publicity that they take action.  Unfortunately, cases of social boycotts rarely receive media attention, as disputes over a social boycott are often unspectacular. These boycotts deeply affect the daily life of the affected Dalit communities that for them to perform even a very simple task more difficult.

Please send letters to the authorities named below expressing your concern in this case.

The AHRC is also sending a letter to the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance calling for an intervention in this case.

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Dear _________,

INDIA: A lower-caste family faces social boycott to pressure them to leave

Names of the victims:
1. Naranbhai Dayalbhai Sarvaiya, head of the only Valmiki family in the community, resident of Shampara (Khodiyar) Village
2. Danjibhai Naranbhai Sarvaiya, son of Naranbhai residing in the same household
3. Dipakbhai Naranbhai Sarvaiya, son of Naranbhai residing in the same household
4. And the other four family members of the Sarvaiya family residing at the same household in Shampara (Khodiyar) Village 
Names of alleged perpetrators:
1. Mahindra Singh Vikuba Gohila, of the dominant Darbar caste, Shampara (Khodiyar) village council leader 
2. Nine accused belonging to the Darbar caste, residing in Shampara (Khodiyar) Village
Date of incident: September 9, 2008 to present 
Place of incident: Shampara (Khodiyar) village, Shihor Taluka, Bhavnagar District

I am writing to express my concern about the case of caste-based discrimination, including the implementation of a social boycott, against a single Valmiki (lowest Dalit sub-caste) family reported from Shampara (Khodiyar) village, Shihor Taluka, Bhavnagar District. I am informed by Navsarjan, a human rights NGO based in Gujarat that the rest of the community in the village are involved in this incident.

On May 2008, the Darbar family residing in the plot adjacent to that of the Sarvaiya family demanded that they divert their disposal of their waste water elsewhere to avoid it from flowing to the public road where other household also dispenses their water. The Darbar family, as part of an upper caste, have since been afraid of being ‘polluted’ by the proximity of the Valmiki family. This was aggravated by the flowing of waste water coming from the Sarvaiya’s household onto the road. The Sarvaiya family usually disposes waste water underground but when the rainy season comes, it overflows onto the road.

However, when Naranbhai refuses to divert their waste water, nine persons from the Darbar-caste had physically attacked Naranbhai and his two sons. Meanwhile, the accused had also verbally abused the women. In response to this incident, the community decided to impose a total social and economic boycott on the Sarvaiya family.

I am also concerned about the manner the case had been handled by the police and the government. Though a First Information Report (FIR) was registered on the day of the assault, there was no mention of any provision of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) (SC/ST) Act, 1989, the principal legislation intended to protect vulnerable castes.

Furthermore, there is no FIR registered on the boycott and hence there has been no government relief, compensation or rehabilitation provided to the affected family despite the clear requirements of the SC/ST Act. It took three visits to the Social Welfare Office before the Social Welfare Office agreed to visit the village. However, he too held caste bias. He did not even speak to the Sarvaiya family but simply looked at the housing plot from outside.

I urge you to take action on these clear violations of the SC/ST Act as well as the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955. I therefore request that:

1. An investigation be ordered on the social boycott practiced against the Sarvaiya family in Shampara (Khodiyar) village by the Social Welfare Office, and the findings made public;
2. A FIR be immediately registered by a police officer of a rank not below that of the Deputy Superintendent of Police, that includes all relevant and proper sections of the SC/ST Act;  
3. A proper case be registered under the provisions of the SC/ST Act, against the social boycott in particular, against all the accused;
4. The boycott be officially recognized by the Social Welfare Department as long as necessary by the responsible authorities;
5. The victims of atrocities be given immediate relief, compensation, as well as economic and social rehabilitation, as entitled under the SC/ST Act.

Yours sincerely,


1. Secretary of Department of Social Justice and Empowerment 
Government of Gujarat, Block No.5, 8th Floor 
Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar 

2. Directorate of Scheduled Caste Welfare 
Secretary of Department of Social Justice and Empowerment 
Government of Gujarat, Block No.5, 8th Floor 
Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar 

3. Director General of Police 
Police Bhawan Sector – 18 
Gandhinagar, Gujarat 382 009 
Fax: + 91 177 23253918

4. Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment 
Government of India 
Shastri Bhawan, Dr Rajendra Prasad Road 
New Delhi – 110 001 
Fax + 91 11 23384918

5. Chairperson 
National Commission for Scheduled Castes 
5th Floor, Lok Nayak Bhawan 
Khan Market, New Delhi 110 003 
E-mail: or

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (