“We will not clear dead animals, nor skin them even if we starve.”
The Dalit protests have been peaceful, spontaneous and dramatic. Trucks piled up with carcasses are dumped at the collector’s office as a symbol of the protest.
The boycott has disturbed equations in a society which is used to having its waste,debris and dead animals cleared by the Dalit community it considers impure.
The trigger for these unique protests : On July 11, four young Dalit men were stripped and flogged mercilessly by “gau rakshaks” in the marketplace in the presence of a large crowd and complicit police, behind an SUV in Una. Gujarat. The youngest of the four Dalits was 17 yrs. A video clip of the incident, put in social media by the criminals, so called “cow vigilantes” triggered these spontaneous protests throughout Gujarat.
Rajkot, Udaipur, Surendranagar, Ahmedabad all witnessed massive rallies……. Vadnagar, the home town of PM Modi witnessed massive protests after the Una outrage. A 4,000 strong Dalit group marched angrily and blamed the Prime Minister and BJP directly for the Una incident shouting, “Hai re Modi, Hai hai re Modi.”
On 31st July the Dalits organized a mega rally in Ahmedabad in which more than 10,000 took part and thousands took oath that they will not clear dead carcasses or clean sewerage lines and face assault and flogging. They demanded that the government allot them agricultural land so that they can lead a respectable life.
They announced a march from Ahmedabad to Una between August 5 and August 15. They said they plan to gather in Una on August 15 to observe and “feel independence.” Dalit leader, Jignesh Mevani said, “I want to ask Rajnathji, if during his governance in Gujarat (between 2001 and 2014), did Modi visit a single Dalit family of Gujarat which faced atrocity? If the answer is yes, we will wind up our protest programme. If atrocities on Dalits do not stop, we will show our strength in the 2017 assembly polls,” he said.
A BBC journalist said that 25,000 Dalits attended the rally. Muslims, another minority targeted by the “gau rakshaks” also attended and supported the Dalit protest. The leaders clearly stated that neither BJP or Congress parties will support the Dalit cause. “Only our united strength will help us fight the age-old oppression.”