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Message to 'high caste' attackers? Dalit leader's daughter rides elephant in wedding march

By Our Representative 

In what has been termed as “jumbo celebration”, a Gujarat Dalit rights leader belonging to Saurashtra region ensured that his daughter rides an elephant as part of wedding celebrations which took place in Vadhwan town of Surendranagar district. Natubhai Parmar, who shot into prominence for organising a unique protest against the notorious Una flogging incident in 2016, in which five Dalit boys were flogged as they allegedly slaughtered a cow.
Belonging to the Rohit community, whose traditionally live by skinning dead cows, in 2016, Parmar reached Surendranagar district collector’s office with vehicles full of carcasses of cows asking him to organise them disposal of, declaring, his community had decided not to continue with the caste occupation, as it had been termed cow slaughter by saffron vigilantes.
The decision to make his daughter ride the elephant, which he brought to Ahmedabad, was to send a message to members of the dominant castes, whose aggressive attacks on wedding processions consisting of Dalit boys riding mare accompanied by DJ team have lately shot up. Not taking down lightly, Gujarat Dalits are known to have filed many a police complaint, with some even seeking police protection during marriage celebrations.
More than two decades ago, Parmar, despite his desire, failed to ride a mare as the elders of his community insisted this would invite violent reaction from the dominant caste people. As his daughter, Bharti, turned 23, he decided to non-violently “retaliate” by ensuring that she rides the elephant instead of a mare during the wedding procession.
Riding on the decorated elephant, Bharti carried the big replica of a pen in her hand in order to send across Dalit icon Dr BR Ambedkar’s famous message, “Educate, Agitate, Organise” – which Parmar believes is the fundamental guide of empowering the underprivileged, including girls. As she rode, Ambedkar’s photo was one side, and a huge banner “Educate the Daughter...” on another.
Working as nurse in Surendranagar district’s Limdi General Hospital, Bharti was married on May 22 following Buddhist rituals. Himself a Buddhist, Parmar heads a Goseva Ashram named after Lord Buddha and runs an NGO Navnirman Sarvajanik Trust. A pamphlet distributed by him at the marriage procession asked participants to take the Buddhish pledge “not to kill any living being, not steal, not to do adultery, not lie, and not consume any liquor or any other intoxicants.”
In 2017, Parmar, continuing his war against cow vigilantes, organised a protest, stating it is not Rohits who are responsible for cow slaughter; rather, majority of the cows died because they consumed plastic. Led by a tractor, on which tonnes of plastic extracted from cows was displayed, he led a two kilometre-long Dalit rally which ended with an appeal to the state government to ensure higher castes didn’t blame Dalits for cow slaughter.
With a motto to seek ban on plastics, which according to him was the main reason for cows’ untimely death, Parmar’s ashram, operating in Vadhwan town, gives refuge to stray cattle. According to him, on skinning, a member of the Rohit community continuing the occupation extracted “11 iron nails, six staple pins, several bolts and other ghastly things, as also 53 kg of plastic and dead calf” from the womb of a dead cow.

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