Ahead of a much-publicised rally to observe one year of the Una Dalit flogging incident, leaders of Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, especially Jignesh Mevani, find themselves on a sticky wicket over his purported use of foul language and cuss words for women during a telephonic conversation with a man. After the audio clip went viral on Thursday, Mevani apologised for his remarks. Mevani had called the man over his Facebook post, asking the Dalit leader to give details of funding received for his movement. In the audio clip, Mevani’s father could also be heard abusing the man.
“The issue might affect the march (Azadi Cooch), but I am truly sorry and have apologised on the social media. I hope I would not be judged based on this issue. I could have denied that it was not my voice and asked for a legal probe, but I admit my mistake. I will never use abusive language in future. In fact, I will apologise for hurting sentiments of women in all the meetings during the march,” said Mevani, currently in Mehsana preparing for Azadi Cooch from Ahmedabad (July 11) to Dhanera in Banaskantha (July 18).
According to organisers, around 10,000 people would join the march. Reacting to the audio clip, another Dalit leader Manjula Pradeep, currently in Nagpur, told The Indian Express: “Men often use abusive language and this is true for any community. The male leadership should be taught about gender sensitisation. The use of such language leads to lesser participation of women in such movements. He (Mevani) should realise that in a time when phones are recorded and most people are on the social media, he cannot make such statements.”
“I am glad that he apologised and I think he should be given another chance. Very few men apologise and I extend my solidarity to the movement. The Azadi Cooch will not suffer because of this… It is a people’s movement and such a movement deserves solidarity and support,” added Pradeep.
The march has already been supported by Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) and various Muslim organisations across the state. According to the organisers, farmers of Madhya Pradesh who are part of Yogendra Yadav’s protest march would join Azadi Cooch on July 12. JNU students’ leaders Shehla Rashid and Kanhaiya Kumar too have been invited to join the march.
“We are there in full support and we will be attending a few meetings, and joining the march wherever possible. It is Azadi Cooch… it is to fight the current government and its policies,” said Reshma Patel, PAAS leader.
A team of RDAM has already started door-to-door campaign, asking people to join the march. “We have got the police permission for most parts of the march. Since we have time, we are ensuring that we meet people from other communities and involve them in Azadi Cooch,” said Kaushik Parmar, Dalit leader and chief co-ordinator of the march.