Police Friday asked organisers of a Dalit mahasammelan, scheduled outside the Ahmedabad district collectorate on July 31 against the Una flogging incident, to shift the venue. A Dalit outfit organising the event said it would go ahead with the plan “with or without police permission”. But, police claimed they have only suggested Dalits to shift the venue to a bigger location as the gathering at the collectorate would block vehicular traffic on the adjacent Ashram Road and create chaos.
According to the organisers, either mother or brother of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit PhD student at the University of Hyderabad who had committed suicide in January, would be attending the mass gathering that has also received support from Muslim outfits. The gathering is being organised as a mark of protest against the July 11 thrashing of seven Dalits in Una taluka of Gir-Somnath district for skinning a dead cow.
Addressing a press conference on Friday, convener of Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti Jignesh Mevani said: “We had sought permission to hold the sammelan near the collectorate, but it appears that Ahmedabad city police will not give us permission. When they can give permission to rallies by OBC leader Alpesh Thakor and Patidar leader Hardik Patel in the city, what problem do they have with the Dalits?”
“We are ready for any consequence, but we will hold our programme,” he said. Besides Dalit activists, president of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind Gujarat Mohammed Hanif Luharvi was present at the press meet, along with Mufti Abdul Qayyum Mansuri, who was sentenced to death in the 2002 Akshardham temple attack case and later acquitted by the Supreme Court. Luharvi said his outfit is supporting the mahasammelan as, like Muslims, Dalits are also subjected to discrimination.
Mevani said if the government does not allow the mahasammelan, Dalits would carry out a “Samvidhan Yatra” on the same route taken during the annual Jagannath rath yatra. He also asked the government to allow Dalits to embrace any religion of their choice. According to a PTI report, V B Patel, police Inspector of Ranip, under whose jurisdiction the area falls, however, claimed police only advised Dalit leaders to shift the protest venue to ensure smooth traffic.
Meanwhile, Gujarat unit of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also condemned police’s move not to allow the mahasammelan at the proposed venue. Chhathu Ram, BSP’s Gujarat affairs in-charge, criticised the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the alleged atrocities committed on Dalits in his home state.