Dalit pride march ends at Una with demand for land

Massive gathering seeks end to atrocities, and land for alternate livelihood

Updated - November 17, 2021 04:37 am IST

Published - August 15, 2016 12:35 pm IST - AHMEDABAD

Amidst chanting of “Jai Bhim” and seeking independence from atrocities and discrimination, thousands of Dalits have gathered in Una to celebrate Independence Day on Monday.

A 10-day Dalit Pride Yatra started from Ahmedabad on August 4 culminated in Una where seven Dalits were publicly flogged for skinning a dead cow by local cow vigilante group on July 21.  

Radhika Vemula, mother of late Rohith who committed suicide at Hyderabad university hostel in January this year, held the top honours when she unfurled the flag at a school ground in coastal town in Gir Somnath district.  

JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was also present at the rally.

Thousands of Dalits and social activists holding posters and garlanded photos of Baba Saheb Ambedkar joined the yatra to mark a new era in Dalit movement amidst the rise of gau rakshaks (cow protectors) who often thrash or flog Dalits and Muslims, accusing them of cow smuggling and slaughtering in Gujarat and many other states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.  

Muslims in Una and from other parts of the state also marched into the flag ceremony declaring their solidarity with Dalits and making an attempt to create a new political force consisting of Dalits and Muslims.  

In every village that came en route to almost 400 km long yatra, hundreds of Dalits facing rains and other odds gathered to welcome yatra participants and held rally to pledge to give up disposing of dead animals and instead seek lands from the government to pursue other alternative livelihood opportunities.  

"It is a new beginning and we never thought that we will see such a day in our life time," said a 55 year old Valji Chauhan, who came to attend the yatra and independence day celebrations in Una from a village in Bhavnagar district.  

"We have to fight for our rights. Enough is enough now. We will speak and raise our voice against injustice and will not tolerate any atrocity or discrimination in any form now," said another participant Jivabhai Vankar.  

The yatra has been organised by social activists under the banner of Dalit Asmita Yatra after a Massive congregation of Daits in Ahmedabad on July 31.  

Among the main organiSers in a 35 year old Jignesh Mevani, who has been giving fiery speeches exhorting his community members to stop skinning dead animals and manual scavenging and demand lands from the state authorities.  

Yatra faced attacks

During the last leg of Yatra, the participant faced several difficulties and abuses by members of other communities. At several places, other community members pelted stones on some buses carrying Dalits to Una. The organisers had to change the announced route to reach the destination.   

According to the organisers they faced abuses, stone pelting and threat from caste Hindus in some villages on their route to Una. 

Pratik Sinha, one of the organisers posted on his Facebook: "Convenors of Dalit Asmita yatra have been continuously receiving calls that some buses which left for Una have been pelted with stones and Dalits in the village Samther have been surrounded by dominate castes. Samther is the village were many accused of the Una incident live."  

Four people were injured in the stone pelting and clashes and were admitted in hospital for treatment.  

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