Merta Road: ‘Manuvaad nahi, desh ko ab Ambedkarwaad chahiye’ (This country needs Ambedkar’s ideas, not Manu’s) was the slogan that echoed at the Ambedkar Jayanti event in Rajasthan’s Merta Road on April 15, which saw participation of thousands of Dalits despite heavy police deployment restricting their entry into the city.
Protesting against the dilution of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act at the function, Govind Ram, one of the victims of the 2015 Dangawas violence where four Dalits were beaten to death with lathis and later droven over by tractors by upper caste Jat members over a land dispute told The Wire, “It was because of the stringent atrocities Act that we were able to complain against the upper caste community. Otherwise, the administration consisting of the Jats would have never paid attention to us. Even after a CBI inquiry, only 22 of the 40 accused have been convicted.”
“False cases against me were registered but due to the active participation of Ambedkar Yuva Sangathan in Nagaur, I managed to get through them, ” he said.
At the event, the crowd was desperately waiting for a chance to hear and see the Dalit youth leader from Gujarat, Jignesh Mevani, who they believe gives ‘tough competition to Modi.’
“People were supposed to come from various other districts but the police have restricted even the buses carrying them at the outskirts. Most of them were expecting Mevaniji to address them but it couldn’t materialise,” said Megh Raj, one of the organisers at the event told The Wire.
An independent MLA from Gujarat, Mevani couldn’t make it to the programme as he was detained at Jaipur airport by the Rajasthan police.
The written order, issued by Additional Commissioner of Police, Jaipur, Nitin Deep Blaggan, barring him to hold any public event, rally or deliver a speech in Jaipur city between April 15 and 30 stated “wherever you have gone, you have vitiated the atm0sphere, caused law and order problems and caste conflicts.” It further read that “Jaipur had a lot of disturbance post April 2 and the city is under section 144 and he would be booked under section 188 of the IPC for violating any guidelines.”
“We had a month of caste riots everywhere in Rajasthan, fissures in the society have already deepened. We are not against Mevani but looking at the present situation, we didn’t want further problems, especially on the SC/ST and general caste issue. Political agitations are okay but if you further deepen the divide, that’s what we are worried about. It was meant only for the present circumstances. Who can stop him after, say, 10 days, in a democratic set-up? He was detained only to protect the social fabric of the state,” N.R.K Reddy, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order), Rajasthan government told The Wire.
Speaking to The Wire, Mevani hit out at the BJP government in Rajasthan. “We wanted to organise a rally in Rajasthan similar to the Yuva Hunkar rally (held in Delhi in January) but the Intelligence Bureau input said that “about 50,000 people can turn up and they don’t have suitable police force to manage them.” Now, they have detained me, I don’t understand why can’t they just ignore me?” he said.
Showing interest in the upcoming Rajasthan assembly elections, he said, “Before Amit Shah (BJP president) could even plan his presence in Rajasthan for next five months, we have launched Team Rajasthan, a platform to engage youth in issue-based politics for countering BJP in the assembly polls.”
“Unlike Gujarat, Rajasthan has 18% Dalits, I don’t understand how BJP can politically afford incidents like the beating up of SCs and STs on April 2. By beating Dalits, they want to send a message across the general category that we stand for you. They are trying to polarise the Dalits and upper castes and would apply this in Madhya Pradesh elections, and if it works out, then use (the formula) in the 2019 general elections,” said Mevani.
Speaking on the hollow promise of jobs made by Narendra Modi during the 2014 election campaign, Mevani said, “I’m sure when I’ll raise the issue of 2 crore jobs in Rajasthan, Amit Shah will bring in ‘Mandir-Masjid’ and ‘Shamshaan-Kabristan.’ Team Rajasthan has the objective to ensure that BJP is not able to do politics on ghar-wapsi, love-jihad and gau-mata. We want to focus on corruption, farmers’ suicide and unemployment”, said Mevani.
On the importance of the state for BJP, the Dalit leader said, “Rajasthan is very crucial for BJP. Amit Shah will bring even a larger bundle of money here than he took to the North East. To cope with their money power, we will show people that these are just temporary monetary benefits. You have paid taxes and once they (BJP) come to power, GST, demonetisation and unemployment will follow.”
On being asked whether he would contest the Rajasthan assembly elections, Mewani said, “Electoral politics don’t appeal to me, my soul is that of an agitator. Hence, I’m not looking with that perspective. My role would be that Dalits should be able to fight the Sanghis and in doing so, real and concrete issues shall come out. We will talk about atrocities against Dalits but also the issues that integrate people as a whole”, adding that “It doesn’t matter to me if in doing so, I might end up helping the opposition party. I’m only interested in BJP getting the least votes. We aim to raise real issues, charge-up the youths and fight for the Dalits.”
Mewani accused the BJP of starting with false claims on development in Gujarat and Karnataka but ending up with dividing at people for votes. “Vikas ka kitna bhi dindhora peete, aakhir mein baat gau ki pooch hilane par hi aa jati hai.” (No matter how much they boast about development, at the end, they come to cows only),” he said.
Calling for Dalit-Muslim integration, he said, “Both Dalits and Muslims are socially and culturally excluded. They have been subjected to isolation, brutality and violence. Both live in pathetic socio-economic conditions. They have all reasons to come together”, adding that “No political party in this country is more anti-Hindu than BJP. If not so, then it’s my request to the honuorable PM to give employment at least to the Hindu youth.”
Speaking about his constituency, Vadgam in Gujarat, Mewani said, “Dalits-Muslims in my constituency are extremely happy to see me fight for their rights nationally. In the next six months, Vadgam will have the best brains working for public health, education, water management, sanitation and environment.”
“May onward, I’ll be visiting the 145 villages of my constituency every 25 days. So, I’ll be those few MLAs of Gujarat who have visited all the villages of their constituencies within one year of coming to power”, he said.
To build his identity in Rajasthan, he said, “I’ll give eight days in a month to Vadgam, 16 days in Rajasthan and remaining six days to Ahmedabad. Of course, the duration can vary.”
Talking about the ‘politicisation’ of Ambedkar by BJP, Mewani said, “They tried to play the Ramnath Kovind (Dalit President) card but it didn’t click. Take the recent introduction of ‘Ramji’ in Ambedkar’s name, the Dalits are smart enough to understand the emphasis BJP is given on ‘Ramji.’ They will keep protesting against the atrocities just the way they did in Una.”
With the objective of “not letting” BJP win seats in Rajasthan, Mewani said he would rely on his team for participation in the upcoming state assembly election. “Under the leadership of Jignesh Mewani, each state is forming a team comprising youths, particularly from the weaker sections, to liberate Indian politics from religion and caste. We aim to bring issues like unemployment and education to the forefront. BJP shall not succeed in spreading Hindutva violence and these teams will counter them,” Dharmendra Jatav, a leader of Team Rajasthan told The Wire.