Dalit pride march creates history in Gujarat



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.

image

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.

Sidharaj Solanki HT Photo

Sidharaj Solanki HT Photo

Dalit women shout slogans in Ahmedabad Photo: Vijay Soneji, The Hindu

Dalit women shout slogans in Ahmedabad Photo: Vijay Soneji, The Hindu

There they decided to take out a 10 day Dalit Asmita (pride) march on  foot to Una.

image

The Dalit Asmita Yatra began from Ahmedabad on August 5. (Express Photo by Javed Raja)

The Dalit Asmita Yatra began from Ahmedabad on August 5. (Express Photo by Javed Raja)

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 !

#Dalitasmitamarch

 

Comments

  1. fledanow says

    I am a Canadian and have little knowledge of India so please excuse my ignorance. If the Dalits choose en masse to stop doing the necessary but reviled work for which they are shunned, what would be the effect on the other castes or classes? It seems to me that the current federal government of India has been deliberately fostering race, religious, and class hatred and now this has started to backfire. Am I too optimistic? If the Dalits pursue change, what will be the likely response of this government? Thank you for considering my questions and please feel free to correct any misunderstandings or wrong assumptions implied by them when answering. I would like to replace my ignorance with some level of understanding, which is why I read your blog. I find it helpful, compassionate, and principled.

    • Arun says

      Thank you for the nice words about the blog. I am from a privileged caste and live far away from the epicentre of current Dalit movement. I am just a compassionate observer, not an expert.
      What will happen if Dalits stop doing the usual work of manual scavenging and taking care of carcasses of dead animals ?
      The upper castes may survive it somehow as they have the money and the resources but Dalits may find themselves out of work and money. How long can they survive that ?
      Dalits are there in every village in India as a numerically small (5-20%) and marginalised illiterate and unskilled group. In Gujarat for instance the anti Muslims hatred generated by Modi when he was the Chief minister engulfed the Dalits also and many participated in riot violence against Muslims. For many Dalits, to be recognised as a foot solider of Hindutva movement was some sort of a recognition. But now they realise that even inside Hindutva movement they remain a Dalit, the oppressed. The current Dalit uprising in Gujarat is part of that realisation. But even the opposition Congress is similarly casteist, especially in Gujarat. So what is the way forward ? Nobody knows.

  2. fledanow says

    Thank you for your reply. I see that I really do not understand the Dalits’ situation, including their lack of options. It’s hard to recognize when it is not just lack of information but one’s culture that is blinding one. I appreciate your patience with my questions; you must be very frustrated at times with this kind of “why don’t they eat cake?” naivety.

Comments welcome