“Gai ki poonch tum rakho, humey humari zameen do (keep the cow’s tail with you, give us our land)”. The slogan reverberated inside Ahmedabad’s Ambedkar Hall, where over 2,000 people led by Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM) gathered on Tuesday to mark one year of flogging of Dalit youths by alleged gau rakshaks in Una as they were skinning a cow’s carcass. The event, which started with a two-minute silence for the victims of Amarnath yatra terror attack, was attended by former JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar, brother of Junaid Khan who was lynched by a mob on a train in Faridabad recently, Raza Haider of anti-lynching campaign Notinmyname and Patidar leader Reshma Patel.
The meeting started with a video on the flogging incident and continued for nearly five hours as one by one the speakers gave hard-hitting speeches centred around the rights of marginal communities, interspered with slogans of “hume chahiyeh azadi” and “Inqualab Zindabad”.
“The Una movement has been a milestone and we will make su-re that we do not let the spirit fade. The terror of gau rakshas has increased in the last one year, but we need to come together to fight it,” said RDAM leader Jignesh Mewani as he exhorted people to join Azadi Koonch, a week-long march to mark the Una flogging anniversary, scheduled to begin from Mehsana on Wednesday. “The Mehsana authorities have withdrawn permission for the march, but we will gather here and get detained if we have to,” said Mewani.
Kanhaiya hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling him “prachar mantri”. “Modi has brought acchey din only through Twitter. He said demonitisation is a surgical strike against terrorism. So how will you explain Amarnath attack… We are a secular country and things like Azadi Koonch are our way of talking about equality… Azadi Koonch is a march questioning the Gujarat model,” he said. “Let us make sure that in the 2017 Gujarat elections, we sent the lotus (BJP) back to its house. Azadi Kooch has the support of Patidars,” said Resham Patel.
The Sarvaiyas, who were assaulted by the cow vigilantes, were also in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. “We came here to give an application to the Collector demanding action in the flogging case. There has been no justice,” said Balu Sarvaiya, father of one of the flogging victims, adding that he will not be joining Azadi Koonch march.