Updated: August 17, 2016 3:14:04 am
Twenty-six year-old Pankaj Solanki, a resident of Shapar village in Rajkot district, gets upset when his peers from upper caste address his father by his name. “This is a part of our daily torment. When I address their father as uncles why don’t they show respect to my father? Even though we have moved to Rajkot city, the caste-based discrimination refuses to stop.”
Solanki was part of about 6,000 odd gathering of Dalits in Una where Dalit Asmita Mahasammelan was held on Monday. Several Muslims also joined the gathering, showing solidarity with the Dalits. He said that when he heard Kanhaiya Kumar, president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union, speak about freedom from caste, he was excited. However, he said he had no idea about people who actually participated in the ten days march, barring Jignesh Mewani.
There were about 100 odd Muslims wearing skull caps who participated in the event and raised “Dalit-Muslim”unity slogans. Among them was Muhammed Shafi Madni from Welfare Party of India. He said, “We are here to support Dalits fight for their dignity. The most basic thing is human dignity that we all should strive for.” He said that he came from Delhi with three other Muslim to support Dalits and their cause.
Nanjibhai Vanji, 50, from Rokarda village in Una taluka, had come to support the Dalit movement. “It was for Dalit samaj and many questions which the whole community faces. I have suffered it and have to lodge three case of atrocities against upper-caste villagers who don’t stop hurling castiest remarks and whenever I have objected they beat me up.”
At a stone’s throw away, about ten people are sitting on dharna for the past four days demanding justice for a killing. Piyush Kalabhai Sarvaiya’s brother, Mayur, was allegedly burnt alive in a village in Junagadh and after he lodged an FIR against upper-caste villagers, the only Dalit family was boycotted. Since then, the Sarvaiya family is living in Una on rented accommodation. “We came here to see what all happened. This is certainly not what we want. We can’t quit skinning dead animals unless we have an alternative. At the moment, five acres land is a distant dream. The government will never give us,” said a participant refusing to be identified.
The event though, was not without its share of anxious moments. Balu Sarvaiya, one of the victims of Una incident, Monday received an alleged threat letter. After the gathering got over, he, along with a group of a Dalits, sat in front of the Una police station, seeking police protection. Besides, a bike was burnt by some unidentified persons in a nearby village. On Sunday night, a group of Dalits were attacked also attacked by upper-caste men. In the incident, four sustained injuries and were taken to Una general hospital.
On Sunday night there was another hiccup when Jitu Sarvaiya, nephew of Balu Sarvaiya, withdrew the application he had sought for the tricolour hoisting at the sammellan. According to a senior police officer, the organisers had almost cancelled the event at the proposed ground and decided to hoist the tricolour at the venue of their night stay. But police insisted that permission was required in any case.
Then, the officer said, one volunteer filed a fresh application for permission to hold the gathering which was granted. At the sammelan, it was announced that only Jignesh Mewani and Balu Sarvaiya would speak. However, after their speeches, Kanhaiya Kumar spoke too. His speech was followed by many others who were jostling on the stage.
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