Thousands of Dalits gathered in a rally held in Una of Gujarat to protest the flogging of four Dalit men by alleged cow-protection vigilantes. These protestors faced assault and their vehicles were attacked on their way to Una, by the so-called Gau Rakshaks.
Radhika Vemula, the mother of PhD student Rohith Vemula, whose suicide at the University of Hyderabad sparked controversy and protest against caste discrimination last year, also attended the mass gathering. She hoisted the national flag and addressed the rally where she also took then opportunity to congratulate the Dalits of Gujarat for forcing Anandiben Patel to resign as the chief minister.
““India belongs to all, not one caste or religion,” she added.
JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar also participated in the rally. He said that the protestors managed to expose the Gujarat model of development, by coming out with the civil agitations.
Jignesh Mevani, the lawyer turned Young Turk of Gujarat Dalit protests also addressed the rally. He demanded a discussion on the land allotment for Dalits in the Gujarat assembly on August 22-23.
“If Hardik Patel went to jail for seven months, I am ready to go for 27. It will only intensify the agitation,” Mevani added.
All the Dalits gathered in the rally pledged that they will not remove dead cows or skin them, which is a job imposed on them by the upper castes.
Students and activists from across the country joined the protest rally.
“I think the rally is historic”, said Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association. “It raises a big challenge to the caste system itself because the Dalits are saying that they not going to do these cleaning jobs anymore. Then as the people of a seventy-year-old country, we should think why do our municipalities and governments feel so helpless, when the Dalit deny cleaning their excreta and carcases,” she added.
“Dalit Asmita Yatra” led by Jignesh Mevani had been marching to Una from Ahmedabad through the villages for last ten days. Some of the Dalits and activists were assaulted and threatened by the people of upper castes while the march was approaching Una. People from the Darbar community blocked the road near the Samter village and pelted stones on the vehicles.
Two journalists- Amit Kumar of ‘Two Circles’ and Greeshma Aruna Rai of ‘Dalit Camera’- got severely injured in an accident, while they managed to escape on a bike.
Many Dalit protestors also were hospitalised after getting attacked by the upper caste people.
Dalit protestors blocked the road in front of the Una district police headquarters, demanding an immediate arrest of the attackers. Police officials ensured the leaders that they will arrest the assailants and will provide enough protection for the participants of the rally.