Gujarat Dalits want Rupani to declare at least one village untouchability free on Independence Day
In a move which is sure to embarrass the Vijay Rupani led BJP government in Gujarat, the representatives of the Dalit community plan to hand over the national flag to the chief minister. The intent behind, what will perhaps be, the largest hand-woven flag is to remind the CM that abolition of untouchability still remains a distant dream.
The representatives also plan to challenge Rupani to sign on a certificate and name just one village in the state as untouchability free on the occasion of the 70th Independence Day.
The Dalits plan to go to Gandhinagar on 11 August with a contingent of around 1,250 people. The contingent will include five people each from every one of the 250 Talukas of the state. The tricolour, measuring 125 feet by 83.3 feet, will be handed over along with a 'Soopda' (a broom like device used to segregate grain from the soil in rural households) that will contain a one line memorandum and a certificate. And they will be asking Rupani to fill in the name of the village that he intends to declare untouchability free on Independence Day and sign at the bottom of the certificate.
The significance of the flag
“The reason why the national flag has a length of 125 feet is to mark the celebration of the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar. The second dimension of 83.3 feet comes with the prescribed proportion for making a national flag. This flag has been made by Vankars affiliated to the Dalit Shakti Kendra at Sanand. The Vankars form an integral part of the Dalit community. The flag has been prepared at a cost of Rs 53,000 that came from donations collected from within the Dalit community,” said Dalit activist Kantibhai Parmar.
Parmar disclosed that it took 25 days to prepare this flag that is made of 2,120 square metres of khadi. An Ashok Chakra of 25 feet by 25 feet has been printed on it. The cost of labour put in for making the flag has not been counted.
Pointing towards the importance of Ashok Chakra, the Dalit activists say that its 24 spokes symbolise Gautam Buddha’s Dharma Chakra consisting of 12 basic principles of life – one of which is equality.
The Dalits at the Dalit Shakti Kendra have already launched a movement to free India of untouchability by 2047, the 100th year of independence. The movement was launched on 15 July.
“The Soopda being gifted is again symbolic of the caste division. It is made by the Valmikis and in the olden days the sticks were tied together with a leather handle or with a leather string made from animal intestines which again was made by the Dalits. The idea of giving a Soopda is to remind the government of the large scale untouchability that is rampant in rural areas,” said Dalit activist Martin Macwan.
“The tricolour in itself conveys the message that while our national flag stands for one nation. In reality, we are 'one country two nations' where the Dalits are being discriminated against,” Macwan further pointed out.
Macwan said that this movement against untouchability will be taken to other states in India as well to highlight how the various governments have failed to do away with it over the last 70 years of Independence.
Referring to the movement launched on 15 July, he disclosed that his organisation had got a message of total removal of untouchability by 2047 printed on 2,500 saucers that have been distributed across the villages of Gujarat. There is a demand for more such saucers which is being fulfilled.
“The idea is to propagate the message. It is a common practice in Gujarat to drink tea from a saucer. So the message gets communicated if a guest is served tea in the saucer with the message against removing untouchability,” Macwan said.
He further disclosed that very soon, the Dalits will be holding public meetings across towns and villages of Gujarat to galvanise support for this movement.
The continuing pressure from the Dalits on the social front has put the BJP-led Gujarat government on the back foot. Although the discontent had been simmering for the last several years, the incident of public flogging of Dalits skinning a dead animal in Una taluka of Gir Somnath district proved to be a trigger for several Dalit movements including the Una March. These movements have led to an awakening of sorts among the Dalit community, particularly in the youth. Through these movements, several new Dalit leaders like Jignesh Mevani have emerged.
The BJP has been trying desperately to woo back the Dalits but has been unsuccessful till now. Its biggest fear at this point is the coming together of the Dalits, Muslims and agitating Patidars. This combination is capable of upsetting BJP's calculations for the elections that are scheduled to be held a few months down the line.