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

Nobel laureates join international figures, seek release of Bhima Koregaon accused activists

Nobel laureates Olga Tokarczuk,  Wole Soyinka Counterview Desk  As many as 57 top international personalities, including Nobel laureates, academics, human rights defenders, lawyers cultural personalities, and members of Parliament of European countries, have urged the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India to ensure immediate release of human rights defenders in India “into safe conditions”.

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

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".

Top ex-Gujarat babu tells Modi: Not yoga but solar system is our biggest source of energy

By Rajiv Shah  An email alert to Counterview from a top ex-IAS bureaucrat, termed as Gujarat’s turnaround man for revamping loss-making state public sector undertakings (PSUs), has sought to take a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark on the Yoga day – that the ancient Indian exercise provides an “infinite solutions” within ourselves, offering “the biggest source of energy in the universe.”

Hunger, lack of food security behind India's 'slip' in UN's sustainable development rank

By Dr Gian Singh*  According to a report released by the United Nations on June 6, 2021, India's ranking of achieving Sustainable Development based on the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs) set by the 193 countries in the 2003 agenda, which was 115th last year, has slipped to 117th position this year. India ranks not only the lowest among the BRICS countries -- Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa but also below the four South Asian countries -- Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Collapse of healthcare system? Why 90% of Covid patients treated at home survived

By Bobby Ramakant, Sandeep Pandey* Well known Hindustani classical singer Padma Vibhu shan Channulal Mishra, chosen as one of the proposers of Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections, lost his wife and elder daughter to Covid in private hospitals in Varanasi. Younger daughter has accused Medwin Hospital of charging Rs 1.5 lakh for treatement of her sister and not being able to explain the cause of death. Pandit Channulal Mishra has asked for a probe into his daughter’s death from the Chief Minister. The family has also asked for the CCTV footage of the ward where deceased daughter was admitted for a week.

Rooted in mistrust? Covid-19’s march into rural India is a very different ball game

By Sudhir Katiyar* As the Covid-19 virus penetrates rural India, the rural communities are responding very differently from their urban counterparts who rushed to the hospitals. The rural communities are avoiding the public health facilities and any mention of the disease. The note argues that this supposedly irrational response is based on a deep-seated mistrust of the state by the rural communities. It can not be resolved with routine Information, Education and Communication (IEC) measures suggested in the Government of India SOP for tackling Covid-19 in rural areas.

Courageous, in-depth attempt to confirm common spiritual values of Christ, Buddha

By RB Sreekumar, IPS*  All religions, both theistic and atheistic designed conceptual and practical architecture, for holistic and comprehensive elevation and enlightenment of humanity. PK Vijayan, in his novel “Nirvana of Jesus Christ” (Notion Press, 2020) through creative imagination portrayed personality evolution of the two progenitors of God-centric and sagaciously logical major religions – Jesus Christ of Christianity and Gautama Buddha of Buddhism.

Why hasn't Govt of India responded to US critique of freedom of religion under Modi?

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* About two weeks ago, on May 12, 2021, the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken released in Washington the ‘2020 International Religious Freedom Report.’ This official annual report of the US Government details the status of religious freedom in nearly 200 foreign countries and territories and describes US actions to support religious freedom worldwide. Mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, this report highlights the fact that ‘religious freedom is both a core American value and a universal human right’.

Covid fear? Cremation rituals gone upside down, Dalits asked to do Brahminical rituals

By Abhay Jain, Sandeep Pandey*  As Covid consumes human life in a very conspicuous way we are confronted with additional problem of disposing of human corpses. Cremation grounds are lit with continuous pyres, graveyards are running out of land and now Ganga has become a mass grave potentially polluting its water.