Monday, October 02, 2017

Moustache rally of 1,000 Gujarat Dalits from Gandhinagar planned to protest thrashing of two community youths

By Our Representative
Senior Dalit rights leaders of Gujarat  have decided to organize a unique protest in Gujarat: They would take out a 20-km-long “moustache rally” of 1,000 youth from Gandhinagar, the state capital, to Limbodara village, where two Dalit youths were beaten up on September 25 and 29 for sporting a moustache similar to that of upper caste Darbar Rajputs.
Likely to be taken out under the banner of the campaign organization, Abhadcched Mukt Bharat Andolan (Untouchability Free India Movement): Mission 2047, launched by well-known Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan, who is founder of NGO Navsarjan Trust, the rally is likely to seek answer from Gujarat lawmakers what they rhink of Manusmriti, the ancient law book which codified caste system and legitimized untouchability.
A village of 7,000, with 100 Dalit families, according to a recent report, sporting moustaches in Limbodara is not the only form of discrimination faced in the village. Here, the discrimination ranges from barring Dalits from barber shops to not allowing a groom to ride a horse.
The campaign, seeking to bring about an end to untouchability in the centenary year of India’s Independence, 2047, began at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home town, Vadnagar in North Gujarat on September 24, and ended in Dholka in Ahmedabad district on Gandhi Jayanti Day, October 2.
Dalit leaders at Dholka rally
At Dholka, it pledged to only vote for those candidates in the Gujarat state assembly polls, who accept to work for the abolition of untouchability in India.
Referring to two atrocities against Dalits last week – murder of a youth watching garba in a village in Anand district, and thrashing of two Dalit youths for keeping moustache in a village in Gandhinagar district – Macwan told the gathering in Dholka that the incidents suggest there is progress “only in untouchability and atrocities.”
Addressing the Dholka gathering, ex-BJP MLA from Rajkot Siddharth Parmar, a Dalit leader, said, if untouchability is “not abolished”, the Dalits would be left with no other option but to becoming Buddhist. A South Gujarat activist Uttam Parmar added, a faith which cannot give self-respect to its followers has no right to have the status of religion.
Human rights educator Gagan Sethi wanted Dalit gathering to “unitedly fight against untouchability.”
A proposal was floated at the Dholka gathering, under which the Dalits would be asked to vote whether they wanted separate electorate for themselves – a demand first put forward by Dr BR Ambedkar 85 years ago. 
Dalit gathering at Dholka
Separate electorate, as demanded by Dr Ambedkar in early 1930s from the British rulers, was meant to allow Dalits (Ambedkar called them depressed classes) to choose their own elected representatives, with Dalits having two votes -- one for the general candidate and another for the Dalit candidate. Ambedkar believed this was necessary to remove the scourge of untouchability from India.
Dr Ambedkar is said to have been "pressured" to give up his demand before Mahatma Gandhi on September 24, 1932, who had sat on fast unto death. Called Poona Pact, an agreement was reached between Gandhiji and Ambedkar, under which Gandhiji, as representative of the dominant caste Hindus, assured Ambedkar, as representative of depressed classes, that caste Hindus under him take full responsibility for the abolition of untouchabily from India.
“However”, Macwan regretted, "Even 70 years after independence and 85 years after the Poona Pact, untouchability has remained intact, and successive governments of India have failed to abolish it despite the existence of stringent laws. Hence the demand to revert back to the demand put forward by Ambedkar to provide separate electorate for Dalits."

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