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Almost a year after the Una flogging incident hit the headlines, Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani on Wednesday addressed a gathering here in a bid to unite and mobilise Dalits and Muslims by raising the Centre’s ban on the sale of cattle for slaughter. While the gathering — organised soon after iftar — was aimed at bringing both the communities together ahead of the Assembly elections in Gujarat, hardly any Muslim attended it.
The public meeting was being organised by Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM), in alliance with Dalit-Muslim Sangathan, at Behrampura in the city after a gap of five months. “It will soon be one year of the Una Dalit flogging incident. When the incident took place, the Dalits and the Muslims united and took it as their own fight. That was a slap on the face of the BJP government. Let’s unite again and show them our collective power,” said Jignesh Mevani, addressing the well-attended gathering on a narrow lane of a residential area. He was referring to last year’s July 11 incident in which a family of Dalits was flogged by alleged gau rakshaks after they were found skinning a dead cow in Una taluka of Gir Somnath.
“It is time that issues of health, education and employment are taken up by our movement. Only Dalit rhetoric will not help us. Look at the government-run hospitals in the city — most cater to the Dalits and the Muslims. None of them has enough staff and proper facilities. Let us demand our right to good health,” he said. “Access to education continues to be a problem for the Dalits and the Muslims. Why does a Dalit still pick up a broom and get into the gutter? Modi’s development model called Gujarat model is actually a modern version of the Manusmriti in which we continue to do the same thing our forefathers were forced to do.”
“If Modi really has a chhapan inch ki chhati then he should ensure that the one lakh unemployed youth in the state get jobs. Which Hindu rashtra are you talking about? For whom is this Hindu rashtra?,” said Mevani.
On the issues related to cow and its deification, Mevani said: “Kutri aney ghadedi maata nathi, toh gaay maata kevi retey thai (If we don’t consider a dog or a donkey as our mother, then how can a cow to be our mother?). It was in response to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s comment that cow is considered as “mother”.
Jignesh ended his speech by calling for a march to commemorate one year of the Una incident. Political analyst Anand Teltumbde and social activist Asit Roy also addressed the crowd. Teltumbde in his brief speech said,”Modi is putting statues of Baba Saheb (B R Ambedkar) to please us. But none of his value is taken into consideration. Polarisation of the Muslims and the Dalits continue in this country. This is how they are building a Hindu rashtra.”