By YKA Staff:
Even as the Prime Minister called for a “harsh and yet sensitive treatment” for social evils and called upon citizens to “rise above social evils in our own behaviour”, referring to casteism, in his Independence Day address from the Red Fort, more concrete demands were made in Una at the end of the the 10-day-long Dalit Asmita Yatra. The protest demonstration rally against casteism, in the wake of the protests in Gujarat following the flogging of members of a Dalit family in Una by cow-vigilantes, had begun from Ahmedabad on August 5.
The protestors, led by Jignesh Mevani, convenor of the Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti, have demanded, among other things, a grant of 5 acres of land to each Dalit family in Gujarat. They have warned of a rail blockades if their demands are not met within 30 days.
The protest slogan mocking the upper-caste cow-vigilantes- “You take the cow’s tail, give us land”– has found a more concrete shape with the demand of 5 acres of land. Land, a traditional upper-caste inheritance and a source of economic and social capital, is being demanded from the government to enable freedom from caste-based occupations of skinning dead animals and cleaning.
The culmination of the rally in Una with thousands of participants also saw the participation of Radhika Vemula, the mother of UoH scholar Rohith Vemula who committed suicide following alleged caste discrimination at his University. She unfurled the national flag at the rally. Dontha Prashanth, one of the five scholars at UOH who were expelled, was also present along with other members of the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice. JNU Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar, film-maker Anand Patwardhan, and ex-IPS officer Rahul Sharma also attended the rally.
However, the rally had to face interruption just before reaching Una. People from Samter village, to which the arrested accused in the flogging incident belong, reportedly blocked the route of the rally, following which the protestors had to take a detour. There were also reports of stone-pelting at the protestors returning from the rally at Samter village.
Volunteer-run Youtube channel Dalit Camera, which has been documenting the entire Yatra, reported on its channel that the road-block at Samter was created by members of the Darbar community. They were upset because the ‘gaumata’ was being addressed in a ‘derogatory manner’ and the political attention it has been given by members of the rivals of the ruling BJP, a reference to Jignesh Mevani’s connections with AAP and the politicians from other parties that have met the victim family since the July 11 incident.
Video credit: Dalit Camera
The absence of television coverage commensurate with the scale of the protest-rally, which travelled 352 kilometeres from Ahmedabad to Una, was also lamented by the volunteer channel. It had been posting daily photo and video stories on the rally via its Facebook page.
Women actively participated in the rally. Radhika Vemula, Rohith Vemula’s mother, has participated publicly in anti-caste agitations since Rohith’s suicide and unfurled the national flag at the Una on August 15. Video posted on Facebook by fb.com/DalitCameraDC (Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes)
The Dalit Asmita Yatra involved Dalits taking a pledge against skinning dead animals or doing cleaning jobs. In this video, a crowd of several thousand people takes the pledge in Una on August 15. Video posted on Facebook by fb.com/DalitCameraDC (Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes)
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