By Been Pallical:
“With justice on our side, I don’t see how we can lose the battle… It is a battle of reclamation of human personality.” Dr BR Ambedkar
The victory of Jignesh Mevani is a welcome development. A young Dalit rights activist has challenged casteist forces that have been dominating the political discourse for several decades! He was a late entry into the race but once he joined it, he fought a good fight! With or without Congress support he showed that Dalit lives do matter after all! His rise to fame post the Una incident highlighted the plight of Dalits who were subjected to caste discrimination and violence in the most undignified way.
However, the symbolic oath taking of not continuing to do these occupations thrust upon them for centuries was a big step for the community but also a slow revolution that was taking place bringing in a new era of politics which the country hadn’t witnessed. The essence of this uprising was not only for dignity but also for equitable economic opportunities. This also mobilised and sparred several protests around the country by the youth of the community to stand up and raise their voices against injustices that the community has been facing for many years! A new leader emerged. He promised hope. He also slowly but steadily started believing that one needs to fight the BJP with grit and determination.
This in itself was a bold move. Several people raised their eyebrows saying it was too soon. He should’ve waited perhaps. But maybe this is what he wanted. However, it really does not matter what the world says. He fought the real fight against a party that dominated Gujarat for the last 22 years. Not only did their vote base decrease but also their egos. The emerging youth leadership of Jignesh Mevani, Alpesh Thakor and Hardik Patel proved that if the youth potential was to be unleashed this is how it should be done with style and panache! But it is also important to note that we are still finding ways to deal with the fact that we need to bring in women representation from the communities and maybe it is time to also question male domination.
It will take sometime before we even come close to winning elections but it is important to recognise and organise to make this happen. I hope Jignesh finds the courage to make this part of his agenda as well. Fundamentalism has grown over the years and it has almost taken over the development agenda and it is scary to think what it might actually do to the democratic and secular framework of this country.
Jignesh must now not only take on the Hindutva forces but also advocate for economic rights for his community. In keeping in line with his demand for dignity, he needs to push for legislating the policies of people belonging to the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Tribes. It will contribute significantly to the development agenda of the people.
All power to Jignesh as he takes on this new role. Let us hope he continues with the same fervour inside the assembly as he does outside and keeps his promises of a new India with opportunities for the youth from the marginalised communities! But this win need not be seen only as a win for Jignesh but as a win for justice and equity. Well done Bhimrade! There are a lot of hopes on you and your leadership. Let the blue flag fly high!