Skip to main content

Jignesh Mevani: Why are non-Dalit social workers shy of fighting untouchability?

Martin Macwan addressing the Dalit gathering
By Our Representative
Senior Dalit rights leader Jignesh Mevani, raking up a major controversy, has wondered why non-Dalit social workers and civil society activists, who have been working among the poorer sections of society such as maldhari cattle breeders and factory workers, environmentalists and farmer rights activists have not cared to raise the issue of untouchability in Gujarat society.
"Many may not like what I am saying here", Mevani said. "Yet, this issue needs attention. Dalit wedding processions, with bridegroom atop a horse, were sought to be blocked in five Gujarat villages. It is a clear case of untouchability. Yet, non-Dalit social workers did not come forward to take a lead and protest, as if this job is that of Dalit leaders like me and Martin Macwan alone."
Referring to the police firing on September 22 and 23, 2012, in which three Dalit youth -- Mehul Rathod, Pankaj Sumra and Prakash Parmar -- died, Mevani said, "Why should Dalit rights leaders alone lead protest on the anniversary of the murder of three Dalit youths in Thangarh? Why does it not occur to them to start a state-wide yatra to convince people about the need to abolish untouchability?"
Earlier, Mevani, who was addressing a Dalit gathering at the Dalit Shakti Kendra, about 20 kilometres off Ahmedabad, established by Martin Macwan as a training centre for Dalit boys and girls, criticised Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani for failing to take cognisance of prevalence of untouchability in Gujarat despite the row on Dalit wedding processions in the five villages earlier this month.
Jignesh Mevani at Dalit Shakti Kendra
The gathering, called to further strategise Dalit action following the wedding procession row, decided to hold besna or funeral ceremony wheretouchability in Lhor village, Mehsana district, one of the five villages, where a Dalit boy, Mehul, was not allowed to ride a horse by people from dominant castes. It also called upon Rupani to declare the state untouchability free on August 15.
Mevani told Rupani: "You are the Constitutional head of the state. It is your duty to take into account the need to see that such untouchability events do not happen in society. The Dalit families had informed the police in all the five villages about possible reaction, yet the state law and order machinery remained indifferent. You also did not utter a word."
He added, "What is worse, when Navsarjan Trust, founded by Martin Macwan, came up with a complete survey showing 96 different types of untouchability existing in 1,589 Gujarat villages, the state refused to act, though it was your duty to find out where such practices exist. In fact, such a survey should have been conducted by you, decades ago."
Taking strong exception to derogatory Facebook posts calling Martin Macwan a Christian, Mevani said, Kanhaiya Kumar, Communist party candidate from Begusarai, Bihar, too, was called a Bhumihar, a dominant caste. "One shouldn't be judged on the basis of caste or religion. Fight against oppression should be the main focus while judging someone, and not caste. Should one call for Dalit-Adivasi-OBC unity or unity for the fighting against oppression?", he wondered.
Tridip Suhrud
Ironically, during his about 40 minutes speech, Mevani did not omce recall that it was Gandhiji of all the national leaders who brought about sharp awareness among dominant castes to fight against untouchability. Top Gandhi scholar Tridip Suhrud has noted “Criticism that Gandhi didn’t understand untouchability enough is fair”, but the question is, “Does he make an honest attempt to understand it? Does he make a life-long attempt? Does he move away from his early positions?”
Insisting that the “answer to all of this is ‘yes’,” Suhrud wonders, “Why he doesn’t go far enough is probably because of his cognition. Among modern Indians – and I would include Tagore, Nehru, Patel, Aurobindo and Jinnah among them – who else engages with untouchability with the sense of having committed a sin other than Gandhi?”
Referring to derogatory posts against him on Facebook, Macwan suggested he did not bother about them. Referring to Buddha Purnima, which happens to be on Saturday, he recalled an incident 2500 years ago, of an individual who reached up to Gautam Buddha, who was meditating, and started abusing the Lord.
"This man hurled choicest abuses, but Buddha continued to meditate. He went away and returned on the next day, repenting for what he had done. The man asked Buddha as to why did he not react to the abuses. Buddha replied, he did not listen to the abuses. They were perhaps some gifts, which he did not accept", Macwan said.
Macwan recalled, the main teaching of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar is to usher in a caste-free, casteless society. It is not just Dalits who are at the receiving end. If in one of the villages OBC Thakores stopped a Dalit wedding procession, in another, Rajputs did the same thing with Thakores. In yet another village, there was a clash between Rajputs and Patels.

Comments

Jag Jivan said…
What Jignesh Mevani has said should be wake up call for the likes of Prakash Shah, prominent litterateur of Gujarat, and his umpteen followers. They were recently seen discussing destruction of the Vidyasagar bust in West Bengal but didn't have time to discuss boycott of Dalits for reasons best known to them. Will they ever get up from their slumber?

TRENDING

Astonishingly sycophantic: Ex-Gujarat topcop on 2002 Godhra riots probe panel report

By Rajiv Shah  In a scathing critique of the 2002 communal riots inquiry commission report, released by the Gujarat government in December 2019 five years after it was submitted, the State’s former topcop RB Sreekumar has said that it “unequivocally” and “meticulously” takes care “to refrain from probing and taking cognizance of any deviant action of omission and commission by the State administration, particularly those operating in the criminal justice system, who facilitated extensive mass violence and enabled brigands to perpetrate anti-minority crimes.”

Two of 12 top caste-based sexual violence cases from 'model' Gujarat: NGO report

By Rajiv Shah   The National Council of Women Leaders (NCWL), a civil rights group, has compiled what it has called “landmark cases of caste-based sexual violence” between 1985 and 2020 to mark the first anniversary of the notorious Hathras gangrape case, which led to the death of a young Dalit woman in September 2020.

Riddled with Brahmanical mindset, India's health care 'serving' corporate interests

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  In this second part of my conversation (click here for first part), Dr Manisha Bangar speaks about the health crisis in India how the government is trying to privatise things, and where our response during the Corona period was lacking. She also gives us an understanding of people opposing nutritious meals for children in the mid-day meal.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Inaccurate gender-relevant data 'spoiling' government policy on Covid social impact

By Simi Mehta*  The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been different across vulnerable groups. They were hit by the pandemic at various stages, whether it was accessibility to medical treatment or financial support. The second wave witnessed human suffering at a level where one can never forget the traumatized faces of people due to the inaccessibility and unavailability of essential medical services such as hospitals beds and oxygen. The probability of the third wave has also been one of the major upcoming challenges.

Anti-Dalit atrocities increase 9.4% despite pandemic, Uttar Pradesh tops the list: Report

By Rahul Singh* Data on crime against Dalits and Adivasis in the Crime In India Report, 2020 draws a distinct pattern of similarity between rural and urban spaces. Published by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), they capture some anomalies and interesting trends. The report also shows that a large proportion of crimes against Dalits and Adivasis involves crime against women.

Vindictive raids? Centre 'retaliates' after Delhi govt child rights body's clean chit to ex-babu

By Our Representative  Over 700 academics, advocates, activists, civil servants, writers, film makers, journalists, musicians and artists have condemned the raids by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the offices and private home of top IAS bureaucrat-turned-human rights and peace activist Harsh Mander, stating, the aim is nothing but to “harass and intimidate” him.

Flamboyant 'demagogues' adjust politics, personality in shadow of democracy

Modi, Erdogan, Bolsonaro By Ajit Singh The terms dictators and demagogues are used interchangeably in various contexts, but there is a difference. The former rule over a totalitarian states where governments are able to exercise complete influence over every aspect of citizens’ life, whereas the latter are a "wannabe dictators" but due to the system of checks and balances they are are not fully capable to create police states.

Power supply lines in Thar 'pushing' Great Indian Bustard to extinction: Researchers

By Rosamma Thomas*  Electricity supply lines pose a huge risk to birds and affect biodiversity, but there is little research about the numbers of birds dying of such collision in the tropical nations. In August 2021, academic journal Biological Conservation carried the results of a survey conducted in 2017-18 on 4,200 sq km of the Thar Desert in Jaisalmer district of Rajasthan. This was the first comprehensive survey of this nature in the region.