[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he rapidly growing Dalit agitation in Gujarat has found a face – 35 year old Jignesh Mewani. A journalist turned activist made this ‘Una Chalo Dalit Padyatra’ (a Dalit foot march to Una) a big protest. They could manage to shake Gujarat government and also gave strong message to those who committed atrocities against them. It is high time, BJP needs to realise and understand that they cannot dictate people what to eat and what not to . Dictatorship and atrocities will not be tolerated for long. Sangh Parivar and BJP have to understand that past days cannot be brought back. The social institutions that declined can never be restored. Poverty can come back, violence can come back, climate changes everything forever, but social institutions that declined can never reappear. This basic syntax of society is what the Sangh is unwilling to learn, it seems. People voted for Modi and his party, trusting on his development promises. However, the development has been replaced with Sangh ideology. The 2014 verdict was for development. Sangh Parivar and their associates, including BJP, seriously thinking that, the mandate is for their ideology. So, there is a misalliance. And that’s where India is in self-conflict. Modi has no strong opposition. The Sangh Parivar thinks that it was a mandate for Hindu cultural nationalism. However, Modi knows that it was a mandate for development.
The time has come; Dalits have become united to say enough is enough. The caste system as a societal order of social, economic, and religious governance for Hindus is based on the principle of inequality and unequal rights. The Dalits or the untouchables stand at the bottom of the caste hierarchy, and were historically denied equal rights to property, education, and business, as well as civil, cultural, and religious rights. They were also considered to be polluting, and they suffered from social and physical segregation and isolation. The result was a high level of deprivation and poverty, no government ever thought of giving them equal status but everyone used them for vote politics.
Radhika Vemula, whose young son Rohith committed suicide at a university in Hyderabad in January, held top honours as she unfurled the national flag. The small town in Gujarat has turned into a national focal point after four young Dalits were tied to a car, stripped and flogged after being wrongly accused of killing a cow last month. Historically, Hindu society in India has been characterised by a high degree of social stratification and institutional inequality governed by the caste system. Past religious and cultural movements, such as Buddhism, opposed Brahmanic Hinduism and attempted to construct Indian society on principles of equality and fraternity. The Dalits themselves initiated social movements against the denial of equal rights and oppression in the later half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century, notably the social-political movement of the Indian reformer and politician Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. During the 1970s and the 1980s, collective action emerged among the Dalits in the form of the Dalit Panther movement in Maharashtra State and the Dalit Sangarsh Samiti in Karnataka, and the rise of such political parties as the Bahujan Samaj Party in the north, and similar efforts throughout the country. A strong non-governmental organisation movement also emerged, particularly in south India. In 1998, these groups formed a coalition of civil society organizations and activists: the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. However, these Dalit political parties and its leaders, got merged or alliance with other political parties leaving their community and people aside. The power greed made them shift from Dalit issues, but new generation took the battle in own hands and came on the roads against all those sects who discriminated them.
Thousands of those who gathered at Una say, they are tired of these sorts of promises. Together, they pledged that they will not remove dead cows or skin them, a gruelling and poorly-paid task forced upon the lowest castes. Also present was Kanhaiya Kumar, the student Union President from Jawaharlal Nehru University who was infamously arrested on charges of sedition in February. The yatra or march is apolitical and aims at delivering basic rights to Dalits – like land that was allocated but never handed over to Dalit farmers. If that is not done in a month, the leaders of the protest warned, they will organise large demonstrations. At the beginning of the month, Dalits blocked roads and attacked buses in Ahmedabad, stating that they were striking back after the assault in Una was filmed and uploaded. As the anger spread, Anandiben Patel was removed by the ruling BJP as Chief Minister of Gujarat where elections are due shortly. Last weekend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticised cow vigilantes or “gau rakshaks,” stating most use religion as a cover for crimes that has nothing to do with protecting the cow, which is held sacred by Hindus. The vigilantes chase trucks transporting cattle and raid slaughter houses. Nevertheless, people do not want to trust Modi’s speeches now unless he takes any action for providing justice.
The foot march by Dalits in Gujarat has garnered worldwide support with Ambedkarites voicing protests against the Una atrocity in USA, Germany, Canada and Australia. Recently, various Ambedkarites and human rights activists staged demonstrations against the flogging of Dalits by self-styled gau rakshaks. In Germany’s Lower Saxony, protesters led demonstrations against the Una atrocity from University of Gottingen. Students and research fellows at the university organised a protest against the inhuman violence against Dalits in India. Now, the Dalits have started a mass movement in Gujarat in reaction. The new generation Dalits, who uses smart phones, do not suffer atrocities and insults silently. They fight back instantly by arguing, confronting and looking straight into the eyes of those who target them. That’s what is causing panic among the upper castes and OBCs. Because, they do not have any memory about Dalits standing up against them any time. They don’t have the experience of Dalits shouting back at them. So, this boils their blood. Their anger has been accumulating and finally they came on roads to protest and seek social justice for themselves.
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