Monday, August 15, 2016

Gujarat Dalit rally in Una warns state govt: Give us five acres land or face rail roko movement in month's time

From left: Jignesh Mevani, Kanhaiya Kumar at Una rally
By Our Representative
In a strong message to the powers that be, thousands of Dalits gathered for a rally, held in Una town of Saurashtra region, pledged to begin a rail roko (stop the train) movement in case the Gujarat government fails to begin allocating, within a month, five acres of land to each rural Dalit family seeking rehabilitation from the despicable caste practice of manual scavenging and disposing of cattle carcasses.
Attended by thousands of Dalits from across Gujarat in the presence of Rohith Vemula's mother Radhika Vemula and Jawaharlal Nehru University president Kanhiya Kumar, the rally saw Jignesh Mevani, convener of the 10-day march, which began in Ahmedabad on August 5 and converted into a rally in Una on August 15, take the pledge from Dalits to gear up for the new stage of protest.
Attacking the state government for starting to implement from August 15 a land law which removed consent clauses concerning social and environmental impact assessment, Mevani said, it “undermines” land reforms, which are meant to help the marginalized communities.
Huge Muslim presence at the Una rally
Calling for a unity of Dalits, adivasis, Muslims, and people's movements from all over the country, Mevani asked the gathering whether they were ready to go to jail for their land rights, getting a resounding “yes” in reply.
Praising Muslims for helping to make the 10-day march a success, Mevani said it was a “fight for respect and dignity”, adding, those who considered cow their mother “could keep the cow's tail with them and give five acres land to each Dalit family.”
Also taking a pledge never to go down into gutters and never to dispose of carcasses, he said, “We'll fight with peasants and workers against the new land grab law”, raising the slogans “Duniya ke Dalit, duniya ki mahilayen, duniya ke mazdoor ek ho (Dalits, women, workers of the world unite).”
Radhika Vemula, who unfurled the national flag in place of a Valmiki (bhangi) girl as earlier planned, said, “I'm here to fight so that what happens to my son doesn't happen to any other child. Every Dalit child here is like mine. The country belongs to us all, not to a particular caste or religion alone.”
Radhika Vemula at Una
Held to protest the flogging of four Dalit youths in Una by cow vigilantes on July 11 for skinning a dead cow, the victims of the inhuman act were greeted by the gathering. Radhika's son Rohith was forced to commit suicide early this year under pressure from powerful sections wanting the PhD student of the Hyderabad Central University to end his protest.
Kanhaiya Kumar, JNU president, who was controversially put behind the bars on sedition charges for holding a protest for freedom from all forms of exploitation, said, JNU was “replete with instances of bringing about freedom from Brahminism, which is what the Una rally is also proposing to do.”
“There can't be any fight against Brahminism without raising the demand for land rights”, Kumar, who raised freedom slogans high in his short speech, said, adding, “When Dalits demand land, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says 'shoot me'”, even as thanking the gathering, for “exposing” the Gujarat model of development.”
The rally began with Gujarati satire rap by Jay Solanki, followed by the couple Charul and Vinay leading the gathering to sing the national anthem‬. The main slogan on the stage was “Duniya ke Dalit Ek Ho”, or “Dalits of the world unite”. It was held on the grounds of a large state-run school in Una following permissions from authorities.

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