Gujarat Dalits to take on MPs, MLAs enjoying political reservation to spell out their stand on issues
Giving a new dimension to their fight against the atrocities being inflicted on them by upper castes, particularly the affiliates of the Sangh Parivar, the Dalits in Gujarat are set to embark on a series of protest rallies from 3 June across the state.
The novelty of the programme is that this time the Dalit leadership from the state along with various other human rights activists will be taking on the elected representatives – the MLAs and MPs chosen from the Dalit community.
They are going to be asked to spell out their stand with regards to the ideology of Dr Ambedkar and the happenings that have been taking place both in Gujarat as well as the other parts of the nation. The focus will be on instances of lynching by cow vigilantes, caste violence against Dalits and the denial of rights to the marginalised.
Besides raising their own problems in Gujarat, they will be playing up the developments related to the recent riots in Saharanpur and the bearing they will have on the rest of the country in the context of Dalit rights.
Activists of various organisations have formed an umbrella unit to carry out the protests at 16 places across Gujarat. The new unit formed is called the Dr Ambedkar Vechan Pratibandh Samiti.
Veteran Dalit activist Martin Mcwan told Catch that the people are disturbed over the incidents that have been taking place after the public flogging of Dalits by cow vigilantes in Una in Gir Somnath district of Gujarat last year. The incident saw support pouring in from across the country over the issue.
Such support is also required for the Dalits that have been targeted in Saharanpur where people are agitated while the political leadership has been quiet like it was in the case of the Una incident, Mcwan pointed out.
“There is a lot of anger among the Dalit community in the villages. The purpose of the programme is to ask the elected Dalit representatives about their stand on issues. These are the people who get elected through reservation. The present scenario goes against the very basis of the idea of political reservation of Dr Ambedkar which called for those elected through reservation to work for the upliftment of the down-trodden.”
He further said that another purpose of these rallies is to make people aware of those forces that have been trying to portray Dr Ambedkar as anti-Muslim.
“It is the hypocrisy of the Hindutva organisations that needs to be exposed. After the recent riots in Uttar Pradesh, at one place they take out a Shobha Yatra of Dr Ambedkar where they shout slogans of 'Yogi Yogi kehna hoga' and 'Jai Shri Ram' and on the other, they shout slogans of 'Ambedkar murdabad'.”
Another senior Dalit activist Natubhai Parmar, who heads the Navnirman Sarvjanik Trust, said, “Be it the Congress or the BJP representatives, we are going to ask the 13 MLAs and three MPs why they have been quiet on the instances of continuing Dalit atrocities. Our programme will start on 3 June with a protest demonstration at Zanzarka near Dhandhuka, Ahmedabad. There we will be seeking an explanation from the BJP's Rajya Sabha member Shankar Prasad Tundiya. He happens to be a religious Guru of Dalits. Thereafter we will be having similar programmes at Gadhda, Rajkot, Kadi, Ahmedabad, Idar, Dasada, Patan and Vadodara. These are seats represented by Dalit MPs and MLAs. The questions to the remaining Dalit representatives will be sent by post.”
“After seven decades of independence, the fact remains that various political parties have just used Dr Ambedkar's name and legacy. In fact, they have sold him in the electoral market. The RSS that stands totally opposite to Dr Ambedkar's ideology too has been trying to usurp him for political gains,” Parmar pointed out.
The right questions
The Dalit activists have clearly ear-marked the issues on which they want a clear answer from the Dalit elected representatives.
The first one is regarding the Una flogging by cow vigilantes.
“The MPs and MLAs must answer what they have done in regards to banning the cow vigilantes not only in Gujarat but across the country. These vigilantes have been hounding the people from the Dalit and Muslims communities. There are regular reports of people being lynched by these elements,” said Parmar.
The second issue pertains to the Thangadh incident of 2013 in Surendranagar district in Gujarat where three Dalit youths were killed in a firing. The Dalit and human rights activists have been seeking that the probe report by the Sanjay Prasad committee, set by the state government that looked into the incident, be made public.
The Gujarat government has also drawn flack from the Gujarat High Court but has continued to dilly-dally on the matter.
The third issue being raised by the Dalits is regarding the fanning of anti-Dalit, anti-Dr Ambedkar and anti-Ravidas sentiments by the Hindutva elements in Uttar Pradesh.
They are pointing to the slogans raised by upper castes against these icons while going on a rampage against the Dalits in Saharanpur recently.
“We also want to know what the representatives have done to stop the continuing migration of Dalits from the villages in the face of rampant caste atrocities. In addition to this they need to answer why the practice of manual scavenging continues in various parts of Gujarat despite the Supreme Court's strictures,” Parmar said.
The atrocity called manual scavenging
The Dalits pointed out that the continuing practice of manual scavenging in Gujarat flies in the face of the tall claims Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been making in the name of his much touted 'Gujarat Model' of development and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan of the government.
The Dalits also want the MPs and MLAs to come out with their stand on the continuing deaths of manhole workers in various parts of the state.
With the civic bodies having outsourced the job, young Dalits do this job for paltry amounts and very often die after inhaling poisonous gases.
With no social security and the civic bodies washing off their hands, their families do not get adequate compensation. Quite often these Dalits are well-educated youth deprived of a decent source of livelihood.
“Then there is also the issue of land rights. At many places land allotted to Dalits have been usurped by the upper castes and there has been no action from the government to get these lands vacated. We want our leaders to tell us what they have been doing on this since they have been handed over memorandums on several occasions,” disclosed Parmar.
He added that besides the human rights activists, the Dalits will also be supported by Muslims and people from other marginalised communities in these rallies.
The leaders whose offices and residences will be the venue of protest rallies include Shambhu Prasad Tundiya, Atmaram Parmar, Ramanlal Vora, Poonam Makwana, Dr Kirit Solanki, Bhanuben Bhabariya and some others.