August 15th is India’s Independence Day. This year the most significant of Independence Day celebrations will take place in Una, Gujarat.
Una was the town that recently witnessed this cruel and inhuman public flogging of Dalits for allegedly killing cows.
On July 31st more than ten thousand Dalits converged for a mega meeting at Ahmedbad in protest against Dalit atrocities taking place all over the country.
There they decided to take out a 10 day Dalit Asmita (pride) march on foot to Una.
The yatra, which began on August 5 from Ahmedabad, is carrying two major messages to the Dalit community — to leave their traditional work of disposing dead animals and manual scavenging and gather at Una on August 15 to seek five acres of land from the government. The march will travel 350 km to converge at Una in Gir Somnath district on Independence Day where Dalits will hoist the Tricolour.
En route to Una, while passing through Sarangpur village in Botad district on Tuesday evening, the yatra saw fiery speeches by organisers and hundreds of Dalits who joined it. “Do you still want to continue skinning dead animals?” 35-year-old activist and lawyer Jignesh Mevani, the leader in the making, asks the crowd. It responds with a loud “nahi (no)”. He asks again, “Don’t you want to live with respect and dignity?” The crowd shouts back, “haan (yes)” Mevani then asks the crowd to repeat after him, “Gai nu puchhadi tame rakho, amne amari jameen aapo (keep the tail of the cow and give us our land).” Clad in worn-out track pants and a T-shirt, Mevani has been on his toes, undeterred by the fact that he has been running fever, urging people to join them at Una on August 15.
In the morning of India’s 70th Independence Day, the national flag will be hoisted in a historic public meeting at Una, which will mark the loud proclamation of independence of India’s most oppressed community, the Dalits.
Happy Independence Day to all !