Over 300 Dalit men from villages around Sanand in Gujarat are protesting against attacks on Dalit in a unique way: by putting up WhatsApp display pictures featuring a logo of a twirled moustache with a crown and Mr Dalit written on it. Read on to find out what has led them to protest in this unique manner.
Why are Dalit men putting this moustache logo as their WhatsApp picture?
This move has come after multiple attacks on Dalits have surfaced from Gujarat in the past ten days. Dalits across Gujarat are also being attacked allegedly by upper caste members over sporting moustaches.
The first assault took place on September 25, when Piyush Parmar (24) was allegedly targeted by Rajputs for sporting a moustache. According to the statement given by Parmar to the Gujarat Police, he was returning home from a garba programme in his village, Limbodara, when some members of the Rajput community thrashed him over keeping a moustache. An FIR was registered on September 27 at the Kalol police station under provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, but no arrests have been made yet.
On September 29, Krunal Maheria (30), a law student, was allegedly beaten up by one Bharatsinh Vaghela in the same village. In his complaint to the Kalol taluka police, Maheria claimed that Vaghela assaulted him for sporting a moustache.
Why is keeping a moustache problematic?
According to reports, upper castes have been objecting to Dalits keeping a moustache as they feel it is a privilege which rests with them.
“When I was visiting my friend on Friday night, Vaghela and some others intercepted me and verbally abused me. Vaghela told me that I cannot become a Rajput by just sporting a moustache. When I ignored him, Vaghela beat me up with a stick,” Maheria informed on Sunday.
Based on his complaint, police had lodged an FIR against Vaghela under section 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) of the IPC and under the Prevention of Atrocities Act, a Kalol taluka police official said. According to the official, Vaghela was arrested on Sunday.
Lynching of a Dalit
In the early hours of Saturday, 21-year-old Dalit man Jayesh Solanki was beaten to death allegedly by men belonging to the upper-caste Patel community, for attending a garba event, in Gujarat’s Anand district. According to police, Solanki, a resident of Vankarvas area in Bhadraniya village, had gone to see the Navaratri festivities near the local temple when he was allegedly accosted by Sanjay Patel of the same village. Sanjay alias Bhimo allegedly made derogatory remarks about his caste and abused him. As the altercation turned violent, Sanjay along with Chintan Patel, Jignesh Patel, Rutvik Patel, Vickey Patel, Dhaval Patel, Ripen Patel and Dipesh Patel, all residents of the same village, reportedly beat him up.
As per the complaint in the case, the Patel youths told the Dalits that they “do not have any right to watch garba”. Jayesh’s head was reportedly banged against a wall, due to which he fell unconscious. He was taken to a private hospital in Borsad, which referred him to Pramukhswami Medical College in Karamsad, where he was declared brought dead. The post-mortem report pointed to intracranial haemorrhage or head injury as the cause of death.
The eight accused in the case, including a minor, belong to well-to-do Patel families of Bhadarniya village. Deputy Superintendent of Police, Petlad, J N Desai, who is investigating the case, said “all eight accused have been arrested and further investigation is underway”. They have been booked under IPC sections and under provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The final bristle
The latest incident took place on Tuesday evening when a 17-year-old was allegedly stabbed by unidentified men in the same village where Parmar and Maheria were attacked. According to the elder sister of the victim, the boy was attacked with a blade and received seven stitches. Hours before the attack, the teenager had informed The Indian Express that he was also assaulted on September 25, during the attack on Parmar.
Kajal, the boy’s elder sister, said he was rushed to the Civil Hospital in Gandhinagar when he came home with a bleeding back. “The first time he was beaten, we did not file an FIR because he is still in school and we thought it could affect his future. Only Piyush and Kunal Maheria filed the FIRs. But this is too much. We are not safe in our own village,” Kajal added.
To protest the attacks over a moustache, Dalits near Sanand have adopted the twirled moustache logo as their WhatsApp display picture. Anirudh Solanki from Sanand said, “It is our way of telling people that Dalits will sport a moustache and twirl it like a king without a care in the world. We are sure that more people will join us and change their Facebook and WhatsApp display pictures in the coming days.”