Vadgam MLA Jignesh Mevani on Tuesday visited the victims of the 2016 Una Dalit atrocity case and extended them his full support to their ongoing hunger strike to demand land and government jobs that the state government had promised them after the assault by cow vigilantes put the issue of atrocities against Dalits on centre stage.
Mevani drove to the office of the sub-divisional magistrate of Una in Una town and met Balu Sarvaiya, the Dalit from Mota Samadhiyala village, who was the face of the 2016 atrocity case and other Dalits who are staging a token hunger strike since March 11. Balu Sarvaiya and Dalits from five other villages of Una, Gir Gadhda and Kodinar talukas have been on a hunger strike to press for their demand that state government allot them agricultural land so that they can earn their livelihood. Balu Sarvaiya has also been demanding government jobs for his sons and relatives, who were allegedly assaulted by cow vigilantes on July 11, 2016, as, he says they were forced to abandon their traditional occupation of skinning carcasses.
Talking to The Indian Express, Mevani said he visited the fasting Dalits to extend his support to them. “The atrocities on Dalits of Una was an unprecedented event and had led to massive mobilisation of Dalits in the country. It had led to a Dalit movement in the state. During that period, then chief minister Anandiben Patel had visited the victims and promised to allot them agricultural land and government jobs to victims based on their qualification. These promises were published in Gujarat, a fortnightly of the state government and therefore, they are on government records. She had also promised that the government will develop Mota Samadhiyala village. Till date, the government has done none of this and the victims who were forced to abandon their traditional occupation are jobless, forced to sit on hunger strike. This shows callous and indifferent attitude of Vijay Rupani government,” Mevani said.
Incidentally, Mevani had emerged as a leader of the Dalits after he took out a rally from Ahmedabad to Una in the aftermath of the atrocities in Mota Samadhiyala village.
A group of gaurakshaks (cow vigilantes) had allegedly assaulted Balu’s sons Vashram and Ramesh and relatives Ashok and Bechar while they were skinning a cow carcass in Mota Samadhiyala village of Una in 2016. The assailants accused the Dalits that they had slaughtered a cow and brutally attacked them. When Balu, his wife Kunvar and relative Devshi Babariya tried to intervene, they were also attacked. Later, the accused kidnapped Vashram, Ramesh, Ashok and Bechar in their car, took them to Una town, flogged them and eventually abandoned them near Una police station. The incident had hit national headlines after videos of the assault went viral on social media and BSP chief Mayawati raised the case on the floor of Rajya Sabha. As Dalit anger rose in the state, then CM Anandiben had visited Mota Samadhiyala and the government hospital in Rajkot to meet the victims. She had reportedly promised the victims that the government give them agricultural land, government jobs etc.
But Mevani said the state government was reneging from its promises. “I raised the issue on the floor of the Assembly during last sessions stating the government had not kept its promises and therefore, the victims had written to the President seeking permission for euthanasia. Every BJP MLA, as well as the deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, remained silent. In every Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit, the government allots thousands of acres of land to corporates but would not give 20 to 25 acres land to these Dalits,” the Independent MLA said adding he would support the Dalit victims in every possible way to get justice.
Mevani also suggested that he proposed the protesting Dalits to hold demonstrations in Ahmedabad. “I proposed that 50 Dalit organisations of the country come on a common platform, each send 200 cadres to Ahmedabad on a pre-decided date and block roads of Ahmedabad to demand justice,” he said.
Mevani is the first politician to visit the Dalits, whose morning-to-evening hunger strike continued for the ninth day on Tuesday. “Even after we submitted a memorandum to the Una SDM on Monday, there was no response. Therefore, we have decided to continue our strike. If the government does not listen to us, we shall take out a rally from Una to Veraval half-naked and will go on fast-unto-death,” said Vashram.
Incidentally, Una SDM Mahendra Prajapati had told The Indian Express on Sunday that presently there were no instructions from the state government to allot land to the Una victims.