The Coin Yatra, undertaken by over 350 Dalits with two truckloads of ₹1 coin to the value of ₹20 lakh and a 1,000 kg brass coin with the faces of Bhim Rao Ambedkar and Gautam Buddha emblazoned on either side, was stopped on its tracks at the Rajasthan-Haryana border near Shahjahanpur by the police on Sunday night.
The activists were shown a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs, specifically stating that the Coin Yatra not be allowed to proceed, said Dalit activist Martin Macwan, who helped organise the Yatra.
The Yatra had the objective of donating the money towards the construction of the new Parliament complex; activists also wanted to ask the government if it will be able to eradicate the menace of untouchability by the time India arrives at the 100th year of its Independence.
"Dalits are always shown as seeking something. We were not coming to Delhi to seek alms. We were going there to donate money to the government and ask for a commitment from them to eradicate untouchability, which is still prevalent in the country," Mr. Macwan told The Hindu.
The activist went on to say that the objective of the Coin Yatra, spearheaded by his Navsarjan Trust and later supported by other Dalit organisations, was to ask the government, "What is this Independence if violence against Dalits keeps increasing? What is this development if such violence is showing no signs of going down?"
The contingent was moving in six buses with members of the community from 14 states. Along with the truckloads of coins and the brass coin, which was made from melting brass utensils donated by Dalit families, the Yatra also had a statue of Dr. Ambedkar and a sculpture of the Indian Constitution, Mr. Macwan said.
The word “untouchability” has been etched on the brass coin in 15 different languages and on the side with Dr Ambedkar’s image is engraved: “Will the 1947 dream of an untouchability-free India be a reality in 2047?”
"Our initial plan was to hold an event in Delhi on August 8 but we were stopped in Haryana by a large contingent of police personnel, Vajra vehicles, barricades and law-enforcement officials prepared to use tear-gas on us," he said. However, the police had been accommodating and did not use force, he said, adding that they also offered hospitality.
The activists, on their part, refused the police's offer and chose to return to Gujarat and other parts of the country from where they had joined the march. "The government did not want to accept our donation, so we did not want to accept their hospitality. Eventually, locals in Haryana helped us out as we made our way out of Haryana," Mr. Macwan said.