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

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

August 22 to be observed as Apostasy Day: International coalition of ex-Muslim groups

By Our Representative
In a unique move, an international coalition of ex-Muslim organisations has decided to observe August 22, 2020 as the Apostasy Day. To be observed for “the abandonment or renunciation of religion”, the coalition, calling upon people to join the call, said, the decision to observe the Apostasy Day has been taken because of apostasy is “punishable by death in Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, UAE, and Yemen.”

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.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.