The Una flogging has united Dalits like never before.
The July 11 th flogging of four Dalits in Una, Gujarat for skinning a dead cow( their age-old occupation) shook the conscience of all. We as Indians have put up with many antihuman activities in the name of religion and personal convenience. The Una beastliness was sanctioned in the name of “Cow protection” and had been happening everywhere since the BJP came to power. Gau-rakshaks have increased in every state and are making profit in the name of cow protection.
The Prime minister of our country took exactly 25 days to condemn this atrocity in his own backyard. And when he did it was to call those Gau rakshaks anti-social and not to condemn this divisive mentality per se. How can he as every pre-election speech of Modi harped on the protection of cows. Why not protection of animals in general,one may ask? This issue of cow has always been the agenda of the Hindutva forces to divide Hindus and “the others.” Many communal riots in Pre-independence India was linked to the killing of cows and pigs. Remember the classic book and serial “ Tamas?”
And now we are back to those pre-independence days when riots were triggered on religious lines- Muzaffarnagar, Dadri are still fresh when Una happened……. And then the patience of centuries was tested – The Dalits of Gujarat decided that enough was enough and want to finally taste REAL FREEDOM! No more of the traditional marginal jobs that the Hindu religion has condemned them to do – manual scavenging and skinning dead cows and other animals. They now want to live a life of equality and self respect.
And the support the Dalits are getting is enough to confirm our faith in humanity. Delegations from many states- Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and West Bengal have joined in the Dalit Asmita( Pride) Rally as it is aptly called. It began on August 5th from Ahmedabad and is marching proudly to Una where it will culminate on August 15 th, taking the surge of Dalit pride and anger in its stride and declaring for even the deaf to hear- GUJARAT MODEL-FAIL,FAIL!
“Gay ki punch tum rakho, hame hamari zameen do” – you keep the tail of your cows, give us our land – is a slogan that has never been heard before in a movement by the Dalits in Gujarat. But then never has the state witnessed such an uprising by the community.
Global support is pouring in for the Dalit cause, to the chagrin of the Government. Academics, rationalists,intellectuals and students from across the world- Germany, Canada, Melbourne are condemning the increasing atrocities and supporting the Dalits in their protest and some are even slamming the government as “ Hindu Taliban.”
Radhika Vemula, the mother of Rohit Vemula, the Dalit Hyderabad university student who committed suicide on 17th January 2016 and united everyone against the forces that directly led to his death is expected to join the Dalit March on 14th August. Rohit’s mother knows what will make her son smile from the stars.
This 70th year of India’s independence seems to be moving in the right direction- Freedom for those shackled for centuries.