Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Gujarat Dalit rally in Surendranagar takes strong exception to calling human rights NGO Navsarjan anti-national

Women pay homage to four Dalits massacred on January 25, 1986
in Golana village of Central Gujarat
By Our Representative
Scores of poor people from several towns and villages gathered in Gujarat's Surendranagar town on Wednesday to protest against the cancellation of foreign funding license of Gujarat’s most well-spread-out Dalit rights NGO, Navsarjan Trust, taking strong exception to the reason for the Government of India order -- “undesirable activities of the association detrimental to national interest.”
Demanding reversal of the order on Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) license, the protest took place to mark the 31st anniversary of the massacre of four Dalits in village Golana in Central Gujarat on January 25, 1986.
The event became the main reason for founding Navsarjan as a Dalit rights organization in Gujarat. A separate commemorative gathering took place at Golana, where Dalits paid homage to their colleagues who were killed three decades ago. 
“Are we anti-nationals because we struggle for our rights?”, was the general view among those who had gathered at the well-organized meet in Surendranagar. Among those who addressed the gathering included Navsarjan founder Martin Macwan, well-known social activist Uttambhai Parmar, Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch's Jignesh Mevani, outgoing Navsarjan executive director Manjula Pradeep, among others.
Martin Macwan and Uttambhai Parmar
in Surendranagar
Working in Surendranagar district since 1994, Navsarjan is known to have identified 6,000 acres of land in 251 villages of Limdi, Lakhtar, Sayla and Wadhvan talukas, where the land was handed over  to Dalits under land reforms following NGO intervention. Most of the land was either encroached upon, or had still not come under legal the possession of the Dalits.
As an eight-year-long mobilization, which included several representations and mass protests, did not help, a Public Interest Litigation in the Gujarat High Court resulted in the transfer of land to the Dalits.
More recently, Navsarjan carried out an anti-manual scavenging campaign in Surendranagar town and nearby villages, ensuring that the local administration takes concrete steps against the despicable practice called by Mahatma Gandhi as “shame of the nation.”
Addressing the gathering, Macwan pointed to how Navsarjan identified more than 1,500 children in the region, who were singled out for being Dalit by teachers to force them clean school toilets and urinals. “We staged a campaign against this, and things changed”, he added.
Pointing out that Navsarjan’s would continue despite the financial constraint imposed upon it by the Centre, Macwan hoped, people would come forward to support continuation of the school for dropouts Navsarjan had founded in the district with the support of foreign funds.
Noting how Navsarjan organized "vociferous protests" after the flogging of four Dalits at Saurashtra's Una town mid-last year in Surendranagar district, where many Dalits here continue their caste occupation of skinning the cattle carcass”, Macwan said, this was "one of the main reasons why the state targeted Navsarjan."
Wondering whether this could be called an anti-national activity, Macwan recalled how Dalits in Surendranagar district, under the leadership of a Navsarjan activist, emptied a truck load of carcass in front the office of the district collector to protest atrocity of Una. 
Yet another reason, he opined, was Navsarjan spearheading an agitation, forcing the state to order reinvestigation last year into a 2012 case in which three Dalit boys were gunned down in broad daylight by cops in Thangadh, a small town in Surendranagar district. 
"The youngest to be shot was a 15-year-old student studying in a school run by Navsarjan", Macwan said, adding, “The promises of swift justice to quell the protest by the government proved to be a mirage.” 
“Three years later", said Macwan, "The state closed the case, filing a ‘C’ summary report. The investigators ignored the fact that the accused were cops and the weapons used in the crime belonged to the state. In fact, the state approached the court to close down the case because of non-availability of the witnesses.” 
Planning more protests, Navsarjan will be participating in a programme in Rajkot, the main town of Saurashtra region, on January 26, following which a meeting would be organized in Bhavnagar district in February first week, 

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