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Gujarat govt cancels permission for Dalit Freedom March on Una anniversary: Rally to continue, warns Mevani

Mevani with Kanhaiya Kumar at Una rally, Aug 15, 2016
By Our Representative
In what is being described as the third major attempt since June first week to curb the democratic right to protest, the Gujarat government has cancelled permission to well-known Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani’s Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM) to hold what he called “Azadi Kooch” or Freedom March in North Gujarat.
The Freedom March was to be flagged off on July 12 in North Gujarat’s biggest town, Mehsana, and end further north in Dhanera in Banaskantha district on July 18 with a mass rally, and was planned to coincide with the first anniversary of the gruesome Una incident, in which cow vigilantes flogged four Dalit boys on “suspicion” of cow slaughter.
The Freedom March, claims Mevani, had the support of well-known Jawaharlal Nehru University student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, who was participate in the first day rally in Mehsana. It also had the support of “Patel leaders Varun Patel, Reshma Patel and Muslim leaders of North Gujarat”, he adds.
Poster announcing Freedom March following cop permission
Alleging that the decision not to allow the Freedom March to take place was behest of Gujarat’s deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, Mevani says, “This shows the BJP government’s anti-Dalit mindset”, addibg, “Finding massive support from Patels and Muslims, Sangh Parivar and BJP were terribly disturbed.”
Interestingly, on June 27, the Gujarat government had allowed the Freedom March to take place on the basis of the application given by Kaushik Parmar of the RDAM on June 1. “However”, contends Mevani, “Finding that this would adversely affect the political fortunes BJP in North Gujarat, the decision to withdrawn.”
Notably, on July 7, the Gujarat government detained senior farmers’ leaders Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Samaj Gujarat and Alpesh Thakor of the OBC Ekta Manch, because they took out their pre-announced 25-km footmarch from Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad, to Gandhinagar, the state capital, for which the police refused permission.
After keeping it pending for several days, the Gujarat police granted permission to hold #NotInMyName protest in Ahmedabad on July 8, but limited the period from 3 to 6 pm in a posh area of the Satellite Road, even as declaring that the protesters would not be allowed to use loudspeaker.
Ahmedabad conference to "continue"
A month ago, on June 7, well-known anti-dam leader Medha Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan rally was stopped as it tried to enter into Gujarat from Madhya Pradesh. Patkar, accompanied by several activists, including Magsaysay Award winning Odisha tribal rights leader Prafulla Samantara, who accompanied her, were detained and sent back to Madhya Pradesh.
Warns Mevani, “Despite refusal of permission, we have decided to go ahead with our Freedom March. Let the Gujarat police do what it wants to. Thousands of people will gather in Mehsana’s Somnath Chowk on July 12 at 10 in the morning.”
Menawhile, criticizing the Gujarat government for cancelling the permission, RDAM in a statement has challenged Nitin Patel, who belong to North Gujarat, “to win the next elections”, adding, “Dalits, Patels, farmers’ organizations, businessmen, all will now work out a strategy to defeat him in the assembly polls scheduled in December.”
The statement insisted, “Even today, the Una victims have still not been received justice. Cow vigilantes’ terror continues unabated. Farmers’ debts have not been waived. While Dalits’ and neglected sections are denied permission to hold their protest march, crores are spent on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s roadshows.”
Simultaneously announcing that the July 11 public meeting at Ambedkar Hall in Saraspur, Ahmedabad, on the Una incident anniversary would be held at 12.00 noon, RDAM added, “Kanhiya Kumar would be its star attraction.”

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