Skip to main content

Gujarat Dalit agitation leaders "regret" lack of support from non-Dalit communities, well-known secularists

JIgnesh Mevani
By Rajiv Shah
While agitations may have rocked Gujarat's urban and semi-urban areas against cow vigilantes in Una violently thrashing four Dalits belonging to the Rohit (chamar) sub-caste after tying them with SUV on July 11, questions are beginning to be raised about their sustainability.
Claiming a “strong wave of anger” among Dalits, a day ahead of the Dalit “mahasammelan” of July 31 in Ahmedabad, even the top organizers lament “lack of support” from other communities, as also “lack of awareness” among non-Dalits about untouchability and caste discrimination, and refusal to join in, in any manner.
“We are a largely spontaneous movement spread out of anger against the injustice meted out to the Dalits in the recent past. We are angry ever since the Thangadh incident, in which three Dalit youths were killed in police firing. In two cases, even the chargesheet has not been filed. Worse, the official report prepared on the incident by IAS official Sanjay Prasad has not been made public”, says Jignesh Mevani, the chief organizer of the “mahasammelan”, planned for Saturday.
Suggesting that this suggests the “pent-up” anger is “not new”, Mevani, a young human rights lawyer groomed by late Mukul Sinha, a top-notch Gujarat High Court advocate who fought 2002 Gujarat riots cases, however, admits, “Not to talk of other non-Dalit communities, even Gujarat's secularists, active with huge placards during attacks on minorities, have failed to show up and organize protests. This suggests some sort of caste bias.”
Indeed, spread of the video on social media showing the cow vigilantes thrashing the four Dalits all the way to the Una police station was a major reason why the spontaneous agitation picked up. The agitators are not even recalling, and many of them are not aware, that two days earlier, July 9, a Dalit farm worker, Rama Singrakhiya, was hacked to death in village Sodhana, about 35 km away from Porbandar, and not very far from Una.
The spontaneous Dalit anger received a major “fillip” following the spread of another video showing Shambhunath Tundiya, a “dharmaguru” among Dalits with a religious seat (gadi) in Zanzarka, angrily speaking out against cow vigilantes. A BJP Rajya Sabha MP, he was seen as angrily telling the Anandiben Patel government that injustice “would not be tolerated”.
Indeed, the July 11 incident has helped radicalize the Dalits. The Dalit youths belonging to the Rohit community never liked scavenging and skinning of a dead cow, with many of them in villages and towns moving away from their age-old the hierarchical caste occupation.
“Dalits have stopped picking up cows in scores of towns and villages. In Surendranagar district, local officials are being forced to employ costly earth movers to remove the cattle corpses, many of them lying for over a week”, says Martin Macwan, founder, Navsarjan Trust, a well-known Dalit rights organization.
“One of them was lying in front a top hotel on the national highway off Surendranagar town for about a week, with people complaining of the terrible stench, but the authorities showing helplessness”, Macwan says, adding, “One can well imagine what would happen to a large number of government cow sheds (panjrapols), which take care of aging, abandoned cows. At least 250 cows die every day in panjrapols. They have already stopped accepting more cows.”
Yet, the fact is, despite the planned mahasammelan, so far there is little indication that the spontaneous agitation would turn into a formal movement. As a well-known development expert, refusing to be named, put it, “It is difficult to say this openly, but the hard truth is, movements are a very, very costly affair. Where are the resources to sustain the Dalit agitation?”
Natubhai Parmar, a former government official who is an active organizer of the July 31 mahasammelan, claims that they are “collecting funds” from the more resourceful sections of Dalits, many of them “beneficiaries” of the government reservation system. “Dalit government officials in Sachivalaya may not be participating in the agitations, but they supporting us”, says Parmar. There are also reports that the Congress have lately begun funding the agitation.
Yet, if one goes by what the grassroots Dalit activists say, majority of them “cannot sustain” the agitation for long because it is a question of their livelihood. The question being asked is: For a movement to last long, who will take care of the cadres' livelihood problem? The Dalit neo-middle class is not as resourceful as the Patidars, the most occupationally diversified community of Gujarat. For a year, the Patel quota stir, despite hurdles being created by the state government, has been continuing unabated, despite seeing major ups and downs.

Comments

TRENDING

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

60 ex-civil servants seek release of CAG reports on Rafale, demonetisation before 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
As many as 60 retired civil servants have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to expedite the release of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports on demonetisation and the Rafale deal. The letter, signed mainly by former Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service officers, regrets that the status of the audit is "unclear”. According to them, “An impression is gaining ground that CAG is deliberately delaying its audit reports on demonetisation and Rafale deal till after the May 2019 elections so as not to embarrass the present government”.