Una has a query for next President: Why do Dalits always suffer?

Presidential poll: Days to go for elections to the country’s highest office, and nearly a year after the Una flogging, Sarvaiya was among 50 Dalits gathered inside a large room in Gir Gadhada, 30 km from his home, listening to a BSP leader charting a political position.

Written by Leena Misra | Mota Samadhiyala (una) | Published:June 30, 2017 5:27 am
Presidential election, President, Una Una flogging, dalit, Una Dalits, Ram Nath Kovind, Presidential candidate, Meira Kumar, Balu Sarvaiya’s sons and nephews were flogged on suspicion of cow slaughter in July last year. (Source: Express photo by Javed Raja)

For BJP chief Amit Shah, the NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind is a “party veteran born in a poor Dalit family who went the hard way up”. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is “proud” that the Opposition’s choice Meira Kumar is “the second Dalit candidate for the post of President”.

In neither, says Balu Sarvaiya, does he see his aspirations fulfilled or his fears addressed. For now, that’s Mayawati.

“We are with whoever she is,” says Balu, 47, pointing to pictures of the BSP chief, B R Ambedkar and the Buddha mounted on the wall of his home at Mota Samadhiyala village in Gujarat’s Una taluka.

Balu was the face of the massive Dalit protests last year after his two sons and two nephews were among those tied to a vehicle and flogged on suspicion of having killed a cow last July 11. Police investigations later revealed the cow had been killed by a lion.

Days to go for elections to the country’s highest office, and nearly a year after the Una flogging, Sarvaiya was among 50 Dalits gathered inside a large room in Gir Gadhada, 30 km from his home, listening to a BSP leader charting a political position.

“We are soon going to see the election of our country’s President. Ram Nath Kovind and Meira Kumar are the two candidates. Till today, did we get to know what caste Pratibha Patil belonged to? Or Pranab Mukherjee? Now, they say it will be a Dalit Rashtrapati and that they are ours. We all know how much the Centre loves us, we have seen that in the last 65 years,” says one of the speakers, Gautam Jadav, from Vadviyala village nearby.

Also present in the room were Balu’s nephews, Bechar, 30, and Ashok, 20, whose terrified faces — along with those of his sons, Ramesh, 23, and Vashram, 25 — were captured on shaky mobile footage of the flogging last year.

The only one in Balu’s family for whom the names Kovind and Kumar carry some weight is Jitu, another nephew who recently completed an engineering course from Bhavnagar.

Balu would rather speak about his family’s plans to convert to Buddhism, fears that they would be attacked, happiness at the pucca house coming up opposite the old one, and despair at what he says is indifference by the authorities.

“Our family has given up the cow-skinning business, but the fear of attacks by gau rakshaks remains. We want our sons to settle in Ahmedabad,” says Balu.

“I will stay in this village, if they kill me there is no issue. They are angry, and can take revenge anytime. If my son was put in jail, I would feel the same. This time, when they attack us, there will be no video going viral, it will be a quiet affair,” says Balu.

Gujarat Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) have arrested 43 persons so far in the flogging case, including four policemen for allegedly fudging case records, and filed a chargesheet last year. Twenty accused, including the policemen and a prime accused Shanti Monpara, are out on bail.

Yet, Balu is angry that the government “did not keep any of its promises”. “Anandiben (the then Gujarat CM), Rahulbhai (Rahul Gandhi) and Arvind Kejriwal had come. They said that in 90 days, we will complete the case. The government said it would run the case in a special court. But nothing has been done,” says Balu.

“When the accused were brought from Rajkot jail to court, their relatives collected a crowd in the court to intimidate us and the prosecutor,” he says.

Balu is angry, too, about the new law in Gujarat that mandates life terms to those accused of cow slaughter. “Their laws only empower gau rakshaks. Why not empower sarpanches to book those who let their cows loose on the streets after having consumed their milk all their lives? How justified is that? The sarpanch should be empowered to impose a 10-year imprisonment on whoever lets go of their cow because she stopped giving milk. They should pay a Rs 5-lakh penalty,” he says.

His anguish is also because he says he was with the BJP for 20 years.

“I used to campaign for the BJP in 20 villages around here for the last 20 years. What should I think now? Modi saheb (Narendra Modi) spoke about us a month after the incident, when he said, ‘Shoot me, not the Dalits’. It took him a month, while Mayawati is the only one who raised it in Parliament. This time, we have to think and vote for whoever does good for us,” says Balu.

“This Dussehra, I am planning to formally convert to Buddhism with my entire family,” he says.

Balu’s anger is echoed by his son Ramesh, who got a Jai Bhim tattoo on the back of his right palm in January, and wears a “Sikh kada” on his right arm.

“We earned more from skinning cattle, but we don’t ever want to do it again, even if the law changes. They beat us only because of this (cow slaughter ban), isn’t it?” says Ramesh, who is training to become a tailor at the Dalit Shakti Kendra in Nani Devti village of Sanand taluka.

Ramesh got married in February and wants to set up a tailoring shop of his own. Vashram is in grief after his newborn baby died in hospital this March due to what his mother Kunwarben says was “a low heartbeat”.

From an earning of around Rs 50,000 from skinning dead cows, the family now has no livelihood, says Balu. They have two cows and two buffaloes, whose milk the family no longer sells, claims Vashram.

“We sit idle and eat from the money the government gave us,” says Balu, referring to the around Rs 15 lakh he says the family has received as compensation.

“Anandiben promised us a livelihood, jobs for our children. My daughter Vanita is a contract nurse at the civil hospital in Jamnagar, they promised her a permanent job, but nothing happened,” he says.

Balu and his wife were beaten when they went to plead with the attackers on behalf of their sons and nephews. “After the beating, our bodies cannot take heavy manual labour. My feet and hands swell,” he says.

The sense of despair echoes outside Balu’s home, too.

In Mota Samadhiyala, 100 toilets were built under the Swachh Bharat campaign, including 15 in the Dalit quarter. But the Rs 12,000, which was the government’s contribution for each toilet built, has still not been paid, claims Dhanji Korat, the BJP sarpanch.

“I must have visited government offices at least 30 times with all the documents but nothing has happened. Until the labourers are paid, more toilets cannot be built,” says Korat.

The only relief for Dalits here is that since they stopped skinning cows, they face less discrimination from upper castes.

“Now, they eat mava (betel, tobacco and lime paste) with us and have tea in our vessels. They even let us have tea and water from theirs. They tell us that the discrimination was because of the business we did,” says Balu.

Ramesh, meanwhile, insists that he knows nothing of the presidential election. Asked what he would wish from a Dalit President, he says, “I would ask why do Dalits always face atrocities?”

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  1. R
    Jun 30, 2017 at 9:43 pm
    True dalits still are suffering after almost 60 plus year congress corrupt rule which used them as only vote banks. Then came Mayavati another corrupt crook, who filled her and her brothers coffers in teh name of 'dalit beti'. If dalit gave chance to congress for 60 years, BSP for almost 20 years of which Maya became CM with BJP help many times, why not they try BJP/Modi who are not corrupt and we have first ever popularly elected PM almost directly by al sections of Indians who also happens to be MBC? Only good thing I see is angry dalits are becoming Buddhists/Sikhs and not converting to some intolerant abrahmic faiths. As long as they remain in India sanatana dhatrma fold, there is hope for them. Remember if Maya had converted to Islam or Christinity then she would be nobody in politics, but just another congress/comunist/lallu/Kejirwal crony/vote bank.
    1. V
      Jun 30, 2017 at 1:52 pm
      Its mentality which been infused in dalits by Congress since last 65 years. Dalits got reservation everywhere still they suffering? ?? What you want government to raise your family ?? Stand up and fight for equality rather than reservation.
      1. A
        Jun 30, 2017 at 11:40 am
        Look who's talking about Dalits and their rights? A paid s l u t of BJP planted in this newspaper who earlier was Modi hater and created issues in all Godhra related investigations. Now, alongwith her chaploos husband, a Modi licker filling her treasury with BJP's money. An all time fav of BJP mantris pretending to be a Congress supporter. Interestingly, convering up loopholes in all investigations done by her crush SIT officer in any matter. What a paid dirty mole of BJP. B/w the Prez won't give even a s h i t to you and your c r a p stories.
        1. R
          Jun 30, 2017 at 11:28 am
          If UNA has this question then India has another set of questions: Why Dalits are treated as VIP? Why if a dalit does crime, he is not called Dalit by media but when any om crime happens with him, his dalit status is raised and matter becomes special? Why dalits get admission despite of scoring fail marks in IIT and the meritorious scoring 90 plus are denies admission? Why dalits who don't want to study and better prefer to indulge in campus netabazi and fdharna all of sudden start demanding jobs on priority? Why dalits who are forcibly made doctors are allowed to kill patients in hospitals and yet go free? Why Dalits enjoy special previlages of doing any wrong doing and stay assured that no action is taken against them? why dalits in job are given preferential house allotment ? why dalits feel so much empowered that they can put any false case on anyone and make that person's entire family live into hell? Why species like Dalits and their special treatments exists only in India?
          1. A
            Jun 30, 2017 at 11:36 am
            WORD SIR WORD
            1. S
              Jun 30, 2017 at 1:08 pm
              Hats off RR, let every Indian to be called Dalit will see the Drama.
            2. A
              Jun 30, 2017 at 11:21 am
              Arrey chal be chal s l u t. Tu sirf Modi ki chaat aur chatwa. Yeh dalot walit tera subject nahi hai. Tu Vadodara mein dalali kar aur Ahmedabad mein sab ke saatg sote ghoom. In Daliton ki Amma banne ke jarurat nahi. Dalit ke liye ladne ke liye kaafi credible log jinda hain. Tere jaise biki huyi nangi aurat ya hijda jo bhi hai tu, ki koi jarurat nahi. Tu Modi ke saath ghoom. Dalit khud hi apne liye bahut kuch kar sakte hain.
              1. M
                Mahendra Yadav
                Jun 30, 2017 at 11:10 am
                Caste discrimination is the most severe form of vicissitude in the word.It is more unscrupulous than racial discrimination and religious bigotry.Racial discrimination has its genesis in appearance of a person wherein an individual has to endure it as he looks different from others.This disposition can be subdued through education.Religious bigotry is based upon ideologies as religions ate set of ideas.So,it's a volatile concept.But caste discrimination is something which can be ended through its annihilation only.Only then Hindu community can take Islam on its turf and save the world from its tyranny.
                1. K
                  Kiran Prakash Gupta
                  Jun 30, 2017 at 10:08 am
                  The suffering of Dalits brother is due to the dalit leaders who use them as vote bank and make their own fortune. No doubt Mayawati has been praised but what she has done for the Dalits . She has made her own fortune.Why not the children of the class are being properly taught and it is open fact that without education nothing will change the lot.Mayawati should take lead to convert them baudh.She should give up the politics and start social activity
                  1. C
                    claire smith
                    Jun 30, 2017 at 9:38 am
                    Sum total of all casts getting quota is close to 60 of indian population if not hatred what else they expect? All ruling parties follow british model of divide and rule Fault lines are many and too deep in india
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