Dalits, Muslims, Workers and farmers together shall judge the three years of Modi government and shall roar together again: “Gaay ki poonch tum rakho, hume hamari zameen do” (You keep the tail of your cow, give us our rightful land!)
The coming 11th of July would mark the first anniversary of the historic Una struggle. Last year on the 11th of July Vashram Sarvaiya, his brother Ramesh and their cousins Ashok and Bechar were mercilessly lynched in front of the police station by so called “gau-rakshaks” who then even uploaded this barbarity proudly on social media which shook the world.
In this one year, such atrocities on Dalits and instances of violence perpetrated in the name of “gau-raksha” has only multiplied manifold while the perpetrators roam free with impunity. Una, Dadri, Latehar, Alwar, Saharapur, Pratapgarh – are all witness to the trail of blood left by the RSS/BJP’s path towards a Hindu India.
In this context, the manner in which the Dalits of Gujarat brought the Muslims and various progressive/democratic together last year, it has registered itself as a milestone in the history of Dalit resistance in this country. The manner in which the Dalits left the carcasses of dead cattle in front of the DM’s office in Surendranagar district, it created ripples across the country as a symbol of resistance and resilience against saffron terror. And then on 31st July in Ahmedabad 20,000 Dalits came together to take an oath in front of Babasaheb Ambedkar that they will no more do the task of skinning dead animals and instead the government should help them break free from such inter-generational caste-determined labour and they should be provided 5 acres of land each. This was followed by the historic Dalit Asmita Yatra from Ahmedabad to Una where thousands participated and exposed the farce of Modi’s slogan of “sabka saath sabka vikas”.
This movement also provided much needed energy and hope to lakhs of youth and progressive forces across the country. Not only did Dalits of several villages give up skinning dead cattle, but also they took possession of 300 acres of land that had been redistributed 26 years back. Today it is this struggle of both dignity and existence that the Rashtiya Dalit Adhikar Manch is taking forward.
We believe that Dalits in their fight for self-respect and existence, should leave their traditional labour and instead focus on land, government jobs and alternative livelihood and should revitalize themselves to march ahead and organize themselves along with the survivors of Dadri, Alwar and Latehar to initiate the second phase of the historic Una March.
With this objective we are calling upon all Dalits, Muslims, Workers and the unemployed youth of this country to join us in a march – Azaadi Koonch – from Mahsana district of North Gujarat to Banaskhada district to fight against not just the casteist forces and the gau rakshaks, but also the institutionalised murder of workers and farmers and the destitution of thousands of unemployed youth.
At this juncture we would also like to remind one and all about the broken promises made by the then Chief Minister Anandiben Patel last year on her visit to Mota Samadhiyala village after the lynching of Dalits. In fact the casteist Gujarat government did not even bother to challenge the interim bail granted to the accused. The drama-king Narendra Modi who also hails from Gujarat on the one hand calls himself an “Ambedkar bhakt” while on the other hand inspires his puppet government in Gujarat to adopt the Nagpur model of granting life imprisonment for cattle slaughter. Is this the lesson that he has chosen to learn from Una, Saharanpur or Rohith Vemula’s murder?
In this country two Dalits are killed every day with them largely being the victims of mob violence too. But the rulers today find it urgent to enact laws for protection of cows and not against lynching of human beings. Hence as part of Azaadi Koonch we would demand an effective law to address mob lynchings like Dadri or Una so as to punish the perpetrators.
This Azadi Koonch in its last phase shall reach Banaskantha and Rapar Tehsil where landless Dalits have received redistributed land, but only on paper, and where their lands are under dominant caste-hold. So the government basically wants to keep the Dalits landless and thereby force them to continue with manual scavenging, sweeping and cleaning. When corporate are given land, the possession is ensured overnight if required by force. But when it comes to the Dalits and the landless, then we see that more than a lakh of hectares of redistributed land still remain on paper since last forty years with no actual possession in the hands of the Dalits. The Azaadi Koonch shall end with taking possession over this land where the tricoulour shall be unfurled. This is what we mean by our real Azaadi.
Since the fight for land is also the fight for self-respect and freedom from economic exploitation, the Azaadi Koonch would reiterate the principles of annihilation of caste and eradication of economic slavery. We will take all of this into account so as to broaden our consciousness and also broaden the very definition of freedom.
We expect all justice-loving democratic citizen shall come forward and join us to make the Azaadi Koonch a success.
– Jignesh Mevani, Coordinator, Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch