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Gujarat's Dalit face Mevani "ready to meet" Rahul, releases list of demands, says BJP treats Dalits as untouchables

By Our Representative
Steering clear of his stance towards supporting the Congress, Gujarat’s Dalit face Jignesh Mevani on Thursday declared his intention to meet Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi or any other senior other party ahead of the state assembly polls, but with a caveat: The party must accept his demands on coming to power.
Addressing second media conference in less than 24 hours, Mevani said, the Congress must “endorse” a list of 17 demands he had put up before the state BJP rulers, “who have not even shown the readiness to come on the table for talks on any of them, let alone accepting even one.”
At the first media conference on Wednesday, Mevani made a frontal attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani for shielding Saurashtra BJP leader and ex-MP Dinu Bogha Solanki, accused of murdering RTI activist Amit Jethwa. Mevani had wondered why is the administration “not arresting” Solanki despite Supreme Court order of October 30.
Releasing his demands for the Congress, Mevani accused the BJP of being “anti-Dalit, as seen in the party’s attitude towards treating the community virtually as untouchables”, however, said, he would “not join any political party, including the Congress.” Mevani’s announcement comes amidst Gandhi campaigning across Gujarat.
Answering questions whether he would contest elections to the state assembly, Mevani, said, “As things stand today, I will not fight the polls”, triggering speculation that he might fight the polls as Congress-supported independent he his talks with Gandhi succeed.
Hardik Patel
Praising Gandhi, Mevani repeated least thrice within a span of 15 minutes that he is “obliged” to the Congress vice president for speaking of him “in glowing terms in public.” At the same time, he said, “We will make our stance clear on whether to support the Congress once after meeting him.”
Pointing out that things so far appear to be positive as of today, Mevani said, “I have had telephonic talk with the Scheduled Caste cell leader of the Congress today
morning. I told him, what I am going to announce before the media. On his part, he conveyed Gandhi’s readiness to hold talks.”
Close on the heels of Mevani's announcement, young Patidar leader Hardik Patel declared he would support Congress in the Gujarat assembly polls, because the party is "openly supporting Patidars." The support comes despite Congress refusing to commit his demand for reservation in government jobs and colleges if comes to power.
A senior political observer, who is in know of things, said, the two young leaders are in "direct touch" with OBC leader Alpesh Thakore, who recently joined the Congress recently the presence of Rahul Gandhi. "They are moving in a very planned way, consulting each other at every step", he added.
The list of 17 demands, Jignesh said, include providing alternative employment to manual scavengers who have been doing the hereditary job of cleaning up night soil of dominant castes for centuries, and five acres of cultivable agricultural land to the Dalits who were allocated land during the land reforms days but haven’t yet received the actual possession.
“Hundreds of Dalits are involved in skinning dead cattle. They should be provided with land and shed to continue with their profession. Former chief minister Anandiben Patel had promised this to the victims of the Una attack of July 2016, in which Dalit youths were chained and beaten up in broad day light. Till this date, none of the family members have been rehabilitated”, Mevani said.
“Then”, he said, “We want the Congress to accept to our demand that for having a separate reservation Act of the Gujarat state assembly. This is necessary, because for every other issue concerning reservation, we have to run to the Gujarat High Court.
“We also want the Gujarat government to release the official report of the Thangadh incident of September 2012, when three Dalit youths were shot down in broad day light. The report hasn’t been released for some strange reason, perhaps because it names an MLA behind the incident”, Mevani alleged.

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