Dalit Protests in Gujarat: Una Protester Dies; Community Holds Anti-BJP Rally

The protestors have planned a ten-day march, headed to reach Una on independence day.

Dalits gathered in Ahmedabad for a rally on Sunday. Credit: PTI

Dalits gathered in Ahmedabad for a rally on Sunday. Credit: PTI

Two weeks after the incident in Una, Gujarat where a Dalit family was publicly beaten with iron rods on the suspicion of cow slaughter, the state continues to see protests from the Dalit community and face the consequences of the incident.

Dalits put BJP government on notice, start protest march

As a part of the protests against the Una incident, thousands of Dalits gathered in Ahmedabad on Sunday for the Million Dalits March or Dalit Mahasammelan. The protestors have planned a ten-day march, headed to reach Una on Independence Day. According to reports, more than 12,000 Dalits attended the rally in Ahmedabad.

Dalits have decided to stop collecting dead animals for skinning from Sunday onwards, as well as stop doing sanitation work. Several Dalit organisations announced that they would not collect dead animals anywhere in Gujarat and also launch a ‘jhadu down’ (broom down) agitation involving workers in all local government bodies, Hindustan Times reported.

“I was pained by the attack but I’m elated today that the pain that has been inflicted on my family has brought together the entire Dalit community,” Jeetu Sarvaiyas, whose brother was among the four men attacked in Una, told NDTV at the rally.

Several pending Dalits issues were flagged at the gathering, including justice delivery in the Thangadh killing of three young Dalit in 2012, Indian Express reported.

Addressing the gathering, Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti convener Jignesh Mevani said, “This government believes in Daliton ka Utpidan, Daliton ka Vinash (persecution and annihilation of Dalits) and not in Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.”

“To give a strong message to the government, I urge all Dalits to discontinue the work of disposing dead animals. I also want you to take a pledge of discontinuing the work of cleaning sewer lines. We no longer wish to do this work and want the government to allot agriculture land to us, so that we can live a respectable life. If atrocities on Dalits do not stop, we will show our strength in the 2017 assembly polls,” he added.

“This agitation will continue till the government accepts our demands. If the government can sit with Patels and accept their demands, it should do the same with Dalits and call them for a meeting,” said Mevani.

Dalits and Muslims join hands

Several Muslims were a part of the crowd in Ahmedabad on Sunday, expressing their solidarity. Leaders of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind Gujarat were also present and declared their support for the rally, reports said. “We have been victims of political conspiracy in the past. Religion and caste have been abused. Political parties have only attained power by using our emotions,” vice-president of Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind Mohammed Hanif told Hindustan Times, talking about their decision to support the rally.

“There is little choice but to join hands,” Nasir Ansari, a retired professor and general secretary of the Gujarat unit of the organisation,” told Scroll.in“The Muslims and Dalits in Gujarat travel in the same boat, both socially and politically.”

Protester dies

One of the over 20 Dalits who attempted suicide to protest the Una incident died on Sunday. Yogesh Hirabhai Solanki, 25, was rushed to an Ahmedabad civil hospital from Rajkot after his condition deteriorated, but passed away soon after, police said.

Solanki had attempted suicide along with two others at Parabari village in Dhoraji taluka of Rajkot on July 19, during statewide protests.

Amit Shah’s Agra rally cancelled

BJP chief Amit Shah was scheduled to hold a rally for Dalits in Agra on Sunday, but it was cancelled on Friday. While leaders said the rally was cancelled due to predictions of rain, local sources have something else to say. According to a Deccan Chronicle report, the rally was cancelled because the Uttar Pradesh BJP was unable to gather 40,000 Dalits for the event.

The Indian Express also quoted party sources in Agra as saying that Shah’s visit had been cancelled in light of the recent Dalits protests. Fearing that protesters could come with black flags or clash with BJP workers during the rally, the party decided to cancel.

Shah’s rally was meant to coincide with the arrival of the Dhamma Chetna Yatra of Buddhist monks in Agra, flagged off by Rajnath Singh from Sarnath in April.

(with PTI inputs)