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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?

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