Vowing to intensify their agitation at a protest rally on Independence day, the Dalit community in Gujarat Monday said they will launch a mega rail roko stir if their demand for granting five acres of land for each family is not met by Gujarat government within one month.
As thousands of Dalits gathered in Una on the occasion of the country’s 70th Independence Day where Prime Minister Narendra Modi also came under fire, their leaders sought freedom from atrocities and discrimination, amid chants of “Jai Bhim”.
The tricolor was jointly unfurled by Radhika Vemula, mother of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula who had committed suicide in Hyderabad and Balu Sarvaiya, father of one of the victims of Una dalit flogging incident, in the presence of JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar. The week-long rally which started from Ahmedabad by Una Dalit Atachiyar Ladat Samiti (UDALS), culminated in Una, the place where some Dalits where brutally beaten by cow vigilantes for skinning a dead cow last month sparking outrage.
“You take cow’s tail, give us land,” Jignesh Mavani, a lawyer-turned politician who established the UDALS and led the march, told the huge gathering. “We have presented our demand before the state government. If you do not accept our demand of giving five acres land to each Dalit family in next one month, we will launch a rail roko agitation,” Mavani said.
He also made those who were present there to take a pledge not to be in the business of skinning of cows. Targeting Modi, Mevani said, “The sheer scale of protests had forced him to speak out on the issue. Modi did not speak a word when three youths were killed in police firing in Thangadh town in 2012, another incident of Dalit atrocity.”
Kanhaiya said the hype of Gujarat Model of development has been punctured by Dalits of the state. “We want freedom from castesim. We will not tolerate any more atrocities on Dalits anywhere in the country. Everybody has to come together to fight against such atrocities,” he said. Radhika Vemula in her address said, “I have not got justice for my son. He had to commit suicide just because he was Dalit.
“But it is good to see that Dalit movement in Gujarat has forced the chief minister Anandiben Patel to resign. I have come here so that no other Dalit children face what my son had to suffer.” Muslim community members came in large numbers to support the Dalit community in their campaign. Slogans like “Dalits-Muslims bhai bhai” were heard at the gathering. As many as seven members of Dalit community from Mota Samadhiyala village in Una taluk in Gir Somnath district were on July 11 brutally assaulted by some self-styled cow vigilantes for skinning a dead cow. Among others who attended the flag hoisting event at Una were documentary film maker Anand Patwardhan.
The other demands of Dalits included banishment of each of the accused arrested in the Una atrocity incident under PASA and arrest of others who were seen in the videos participating in the beating of Dalits in the Una incident. They also demanded alternative employment options from government to Dalits who have pledged to not dispose of carcasses of dead animals, which they said should be first discussed in the coming session of the state assembly.
They also demanded revocation of “frivolous cases” filed against Dalit agitators during demonstrations in the aftermath of the Una incident. The agitators also demanded arrest of absconding accused in the September 2012 Thangadh incident in which three Dalit youths were killed. They also asked for reopening of the case and trial be conducted in special designated case.