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An event organised by BJP for “social harmony” between the Dalits and other communities was disrupted Sunday after some people forced their way into a canopy at the venue in Vejalpur here, and held protest in the presence of BJP’s senior Dalit leaders.
Before being pushed out by police personnel, the protesters waved black flags, clanked stainless steel plates, shouted slogans and threw pamphlets at the event, even as Gujarat Assembly Speaker Ramanlal Vora, Lok Sabha M P Kirit Solanki, Rajya Sabha M P Shambhuprasad Tundiya and state minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Atmaram Parmar looked on.
While political affiliation of the protesters could not be ascertained, BJP suspected Congress’s hand in the incident.
The protesters were heard demanding “justice” for the Dalit community.
The event was disrupted soon after Solanki addressed the gathering and it resumed around 30 minutes after the protest.
Vejalpur is the same locality from where a group of Dalits led by former IPS officer Rahul Sharma in August had begun the 380-km long Asmita Yatra to Una in a protest against the flogging of four Dalits by a group of “gau rakshaks” there.
The pamphlets flung at the venue were titled “Khushboo Gujarat ni”, and contained year-wise data of rape, murders and incidents of atrocity against members of the Dalit community in the state between 2001 and 2014. “In 14 years, 257 Dalits have been murdered and 501 Dalit were women raped, while 807 attempt to murder cases and 14,615 cases of atrocity have been reported,” the pamphlets read.
After resumption of the event, Atmaram Parmar, in an apparent reference to the Asmita Yatra, told the audience: “We had a number of safe places where we could have organised this event. But, we wanted to hold it at the same place where the divisive forces had tried to disrupt the social fabric, and thus send a message to the society.”
Later talking to mediapersons after the event, he said, “We are carrying a message of social equality and we have the strength to face such protests.”
When quizzed about the identity of those who disrupted the event, the minister said, “The Assembly elections are scheduled in 2017, and Congress party realises that it is fast losing ground, and so I think these elements are in some way connected to the Congress party.”
Ramanlal Vora, who was the last to speak, started his speech saying, “When there is an event for social harmony,
then it is important that the leader of Gujarat Assembly remains present… I know that the audience sitting before me do not belong to the Dalit community. But, they are people from other communities who feel for the Dalits and
have come here in their support.”
Referring to incidents of the past, Vora, a prominent Dalit face of BJP in Gujarat who had held the Social Justice and Empowerment portfolio, said, “A lot of attempts have been made to disrupt social harmony (in the country). The first of such attempts have been made by politicians. Those who want to remain in power pitch one community before the other in an attempt to divide them. A lot of social harm has been caused for political gain.”
Lok Sabha MP Kirit Solanki and Rajya Sabha MP Shambhuprasad Tundiya described the Una incident as “unfortunate” and cautioned the audience that leaders from other states were trying to politicise the incident in wake of the Assembly elections scheduled in a number of states, including Gujarat. “They are trying to keep this issue alive so that they can fight the 2017 elections. We need to understand this,” said Solanki during his speech.