A land dispute case in a village in Detroj taluka of Ahmedabad has thrown up a challenge to the political camaraderie between Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and Patidar leader Hardik Patel, who have been exhorting opposition parties in the country to unite against the BJP.
The dispute began two weeks ago, after five Dalit families of Gitapura village sat on protest at the office of the mamlatdar in Detroj, seeking residential plots. Soon after, Mevani, Independent MLA from Vadgam, visited Detroj and backed the protesting Dalit families’ demand.
But Patidars, the dominant caste in the village, opposed the plots being allotted to the Dalit families, calling their settlement in the village “encroachment”. Several people from the Patidar community also camped at the mamlatdar office in protest.
Last week, Hardik went to the village and met with the protesters. In a Facebook post, he called the protesting Dalits “anti-social” and “gundas”.
“Amdavad jilla na Gitapur gam na loko ni jamin par amuk asamajik loko e kabjo kari lidho chhe. Gam na loko e varamvaar sarkari tantra ne fariyaad kari parantu sarkari adhikario e dhyan apyu nahi. Aje akhu gam hijrat karine mamlatdar kacheri bahar bethu chhe. Hu tamam parivarone malyo. Ek vaat chokkas kahish ke gunda loko ne koi samaj sathe jodva na joie. (Some anti-socials have encroached upon land of people of Gitapura village in Ahmedabad district. People of Gitapur had repeatedly complained to the government machinery, but officials have not paid attention. Today, the entire village has migrated and assembled outside the mamlatdar office. I have met the families. One thing I will certainly say is that the goons should not be aligned with a community),” Hardik posted on Facebook on January 25
Although the issue of providing residential plots has been resolved for now — Dalit families have been promised that they can convert their agricultural land in Gitapura as non-agricultural to build houses — Hardik’s remarks have not gone down well with Dalit activists. Some of them are now planning to hold protests against Hardik.
“On one hand, he (Hardik) talks about social harmony, and on the other hand he calls protesting Dalits anti-socials and goons. This is not acceptable. We will launch protests against Hardik, seeking his apology for the comments,” said Dalit activist Kirit Rathod, who is from Hardik’s hometown, Viramgam.
Mevani admitted that Hardik’s Facebook remarks will pose a challenge to the “ideological compromise” that he has been propagating to defeat the “fascist forces”. He said, “Yes, it does (pose a challenge). But this is what caste system does, and that is what India is all about. I will speak with Hardik on this issue.”
Mevani also said, “As Hardik met Patidars in Detroj, I had met Dalits. Keeping aside the issue of legitimacy of their demand, Dalits surely have constitutional right to make a demand. Certain anti-social elements of Gitapura were surely harassing them.”
Hardik said his remark about “anti-socials” cannot be equated with a community. “One particular family had encroached upon a piece of land in Gitapura, and people (Patidars) were protesting against it. But the act of one anti-social element cannot be equated with the community.”
On Mevani meeting the protesting Dalits, Hardik said, “They are from his community, so he went to support them. I also met and supported my community people (protesting Patidars).”