Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Act against cow vigilantes and we will start lifting dead cattle: Dalit community leaders tell new Gujarat CM

A vehicle used to transport dead cattle
By Our Representative
Is the attempt to take pledge from rural Dalits belonging to the Rohit (chamar) community to give up the caste-based occupation of "scavenging" cattle carcasses during the 350-kilometre-long protest padyatra or foot march from Ahmedabad to Una, which began on August 5, facing a major hurdle in the form of economic compulsion?
It would seem to, if the latest representation to new chief minister Vijay Rupani by community leaders involved in tanning is any indication. Most of the tanners are poor, and have no other means of livelihood but to "scavenge" dead cattle and skin it in extremely unhygienic conditions.   
The padyatra is led by Jignesh Mevani, an Ahmedabad-based human rights lawyer-turned-politician, to protest against the age-old practice against the backdrop of cow vigilantes bashing up four Dalit boys in Una in Saurashtra region of Gujarat after tying them up SUV on July 11. The boys were skinning dead cattle in a village not very far from Una town. The padyatra ends on August 15, Independence Day, at Una.
Though attached with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the padyatra he leads is “totally apolitical”, Mevani reportedly claims, even as insisting, he has "political ambitions." Most of the padyatri leaders belong to Ahmedabad.
In a surprise move, meanwhile, community leaders from Surendranagar district have told chief minister Rupani in a representation that they would not pick up carcasses only till the state government takes steps to stop “atrocities” by cow vigilantes, who “harass them” on way to the spots where they to the skinning job.
Led by Natubhai Parmar, a social worker from the Rohit community and attached with Dalits rights NGO Navsarjan Trust, and accompanied by six others, all belonging to Surendranagar district, the representation said that cow vigilantes, in alliance with cops, “harass them in order to extort money” as they transport dead cattle, its carrion, bones and skin.
A poor woman doing the skinning job in the open
“These vigilantes demand identity card to prove that we are tanners”, the representation said, adding, “As we do not have any of it, they accuse us of cow slaughter cows and extort money.” Pointing out that they would not pick up cattle till this harassment stops, the representation demanded a number of steps to turn them into professional tanners.
The demand comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to state governments to take steps against cow vigilantes, “80 per cent of whom are anti-social elements”, he said. Modi was forced to make the statement following nation-wide outrage against the July 11 Una incident.
Far from insisting that they would shed the occupation, the community leaders insisted, the Rohits who are in the job should be allocated plots of land where they could legally do the work of skinning dead cattle. “The plots should be fenced with concrete wall”, it said, adding, “The plots should be provided with necessary infrastructure, including water and power.”
“To transport the dead cattle, we should be given monetary help for buying up vehicles”, the representation said, adding, “These vehicles should be equipped with the necessary equipment to lift dead cattle. And they should be made available tax free.”
Wanting that the Leather Industries Board, which was disbanded in late 1990s, “revived” to help the tanners with “modern technology for continuing with the job in a more scientific way”, the representation said, “Those wish to leave the job should be properly rehabilitated. Agricultural land could be given to those wanting to take up farming.”
“If big industrialists are given huge subsidies, why can't we tanners be helped? We want that tanning be given the status of leather industry”, it said, adding, “We also think we are more capable of managing the state-owned panjrapols (cattle farms) where cows are kept. We should be preferred for the job.”

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