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Gujarat Dalit protesters decide to hold Ahmedabad-Una "awareness" foot march with Muslim participation

By Mohammed Kaleem Sididqui*
Following the successful completion of the Dalit mega-rally in Ahmedabad (click HERE) in which thousands participated to protest the July 11 attack on community youths in Una town of Gujarat, the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti, which organized it, has decided to hold an Ahmedabad to Una foot march (padyatra) to “awaken” people about atrocities against Dalits in Gujarat.
The idea of holding the padyatra came from retired IPS officer Rahul Sharma, who spoke on the occasion. It was immediately accepted by Jignesh Mevani, who said, the padyatra would begin in Ahmedabad’s Sarangpur August 5 and would end in Una August 15, the independence day.
Much significance is being attached to the presence of Sharma, an IIT-Kanpur alumni, at the rally. During post-Godhra 2002 riots, Sharma was district superintendent of police (SP) of Bhavnagar. On the third day of the violence (March 2), a mob of about 10,000 people tried to set afire a madrasa on the outskirts of Bhavnagar, a residential Muslim school sheltering 400 students.
Sharma issued orders to open fire on the mob, causing injuries and some fatalities, thereby dispersing the mob and averting a disaster. Subsequently, he transferred the children to a safer location inside the city.
Later, as deputy commissioner in Ahmedabad, Sharma got call data records (CDR) collected from the local phone companies for the Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society massacre in Ahmedabad. The special court accepted the CDR to trace the movement of the riots accused, which led to rigorous imprisonment to Maya Kodnani, a minister in the Modi government, and Babu Bjarangi of the Bajrang Dal.
Insaaf Foundation leaders, who were present at the rally, immediately declared that they would mobilize the Muslim community in the padyatra against Dalit atrocities. More than a thousand Muslims, who were present under the banner of Insaaf, Jamiat Ulema Hind and Jamate islami Hind at the rally, welcomed the move.
A star attraction at the rally was Mufti Abdul Qayyum Mansoori and his supporters, who showed their solidarity with Dalits. They were given warm welcome by the Dalits leaders. Dalit-Muslim unity slogans were raised when the Mufti moved to the stage. The slogans which rocked the air included “Dalit muslim bhai bhai”, “Jai bheem jai meem”, “Dalit-Muslim saath chalega, Manuvadi bhaag niklega”, and “Dalit-Muslim ekta zindabad”.
Rahul Sharma
The Mufti's presence is significant as he was acquitted by the Supreme Court in the September 2002 Akshardham Temple terror attack. He was branded a terrorist till his acquittal in 2014 by the Supreme Court. Last year, he penned his memoirs on the agony and atrocities that he underwent during his 11-year jail-term. In his book, he has given graphic details about his personal experiences of 11 years in jail, accusing IPS officer DG Vanzara and others for falsely booking him and other innocent Muslims. Retired, Vanzara has filed a defamation case against the Mufti, seeking a damage of Rs 101 crore.
The idea of holding an Ahmedabad-to-Una rally has come in the backdrop of Dalit activists at the rally warning the Anadiben Patel government that they were till now “skinners of dead animals”, but would now “skin the ideology of Brahmanism in 2017.” Dalit activist Mahesh G Parmar said the Anandiben government and district collectors should announce collection of dead bulls “as a surprise package.”
Present at the rally were family members of the Una victims. They were happy to see the unity in Dalit community. A member of a victim's family told the rally, “We suffered due to so-called Gau Rakshak, but are now happy because the Dalit community has woken up and is united against Brahminical ideology.”
Criticizing the police for the Una Dalit atrocity, he said they are “not providing CCTV footage” to the family members of that day on which the attack took place, July 11.”
Anger against the established political parties was visible at the rally. A dozen of local BJP office bearers of the Dalit community have resigned from their posts and join the movement against the government. When a few Congressmen reached the stage, they were strictly told to do off-stage.
Valjibhai Patel, a veteran Dalit rights leader, said these 13 MLAs were “slaves of Brahminical parties” and were “useless for the community”. He added, they would “get a lesson in the 2017 assembly election”.
Patel said, not one of them has yet demanded the tabling of the the Sanjay Prasad Commission report on Thangarh Dalit atrocities in the Gujarat state assembly, even though Ramanlal Vohra is a Cabinet minister and Shailesh Parmar is a Congress spokesperson.
He was referring to the September 22-23, 2012 incident in which the cops shot and killed three Dalit youths in Thangardh, an industrial town of Surendranagar district – Pankaj Sumra (age 16), Mehul Rathod (age 17) and Prakash Parmar (age 26). The incident took place after an agitated group decided to get together to file a complaint, marching all the way to the police station.
There have been reports that commandos who were part of the security of the then Chief Minister, Narendra Modi's election rally, which was scheduled in the vicinity, were part of the police team which opened fire.
---
*Ahmedabad-based activist, editor of Urdu newspaper “Tarkash"

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