Dalit rights group Navsarjan Trust is now set to organise a month-long campaign in the run up to the Assembly elections in Gujarat urging voters to only pick the party that comes up with a concrete plan to abolish untouchability in their manifesto.
The campaign will include a month-long tour of 90 Talukas of Gujarat with a 9-feet tall EVM along with VVPAT and is set to begin on September 15 from Dholka. It will travel through Kheda-Anand-Vadodara-Rajpipla-Devgadhbaria-Chhotaudepur-Panchmahal-Ahmedabad rural-Botad-Bhavnagar-Rajkot-Kutchchh-Surendranagar-Banas Kantha Patan-Mehesana before ending in Ahmedabad on October 15.
This comes as a follow up to the Untouchability-Free India yatra, organised by Navsarjan and a host of other Dalits rights groups in August this year. The week-long yatra had intended to present to the President of India a 1,000kg brass coin, made from melting brass utensils donated by Dalit families. The coin had the face of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar on one side and that of Gautam Buddha on the other and had these words engraved: “Will the 1947 dream of an untouchability-free India be a reality in 2047?”
While the contingent travelling with the coin and coin donations worth ₹20 lakh collected from Dalit families was stopped before it could enter Delhi, the Navsarjan Trust is now preparing to hold this campaign ahead of the Gujarat polls.
Along with the mock-EVM, which displays a detailed description of what the concrete plan to remove untouchability means for the political parties, a 90-metre long banner shall also be displayed with the message: “We will give our vote only to the political party whose manifesto has concretely laid out plan to remove untouchability.” On the mock-VVPAT, one inscription says, “Our vote is only for untouchability-free India”.
On the mock-EVM, inscriptions ask voters to question political parties about their will to eradicate untouchability, by when they will do it and how much money they are willing to commit to it. One inscription also asks why the Coin Yatra was not allowed to proceed to Delhi and why the brass coin was not accepted. In addition, it also contains messages asking how much longer should Dalits endure the atrocities and discrimination against them.
Further, inscriptions ask when Gujarat will become a model for untouchability-free India, why most undertrials and malnourished children in the State are Dalits and Tribals and how much money will be allocated for unemployed Dalits and Tribals.
“It is the constitutional mandate of the State to abolish untouchability. It is the duty of the voters to remind the Political parties about their position and programs for removal of untouchability,” Martin Macwan of Navsarjan said in a statement on September 13.
Mr. Macwan’s statement said that the campaign’s theme is to bring to light that even after 90 years of the Poona Pact, neither untouchability has been removed nor do Dalits feel united with other Hindus. The nine-feet tall EVM machine is meant to represent nine decades since the Poona Pact of 1932.