• Azaadi Kooch Begins : Dalits, Patidars, Muslims March from Ahmedabad to Mehsana Despite Police Ban

    "The Una movement has been a milestone and the spirit will never fade".


    July 12, 2017

    Dalit youth leader, Jignesh Mevani and Kanhaiya Kumar, formerly president of the JNU Student's Union plan to go to Mehsana, a North Gujarat town, to lead Azadi Kooch or Freedom March, on Wednesday, for which permission, given last month, was cancelled two days ago. According to an organizer of the march, which is planned to end on July 18 in Dhanera, Banaskantha district with a big rally, activists from across India would court arrest if they are stopped. Today that march has begun.

    One year of una Flogging: Dalits, right activists, Patidars come together at Ahmedabad pm on July 11

    The meeting in Ahmedabad on Tuesday started with a video on the flogging incident and continued for nearly five hours as one by one the speakers gave hard-hitting speeches centred around the rights of marginal communities, interspered with slogans of “hume chahiyeh azadi” and “Inqualab Zindabad”.

     “Gai ki poonch tum rakho, humey humari zameen do (keep the cow’s tail with you, give us our land)”. The slogan reverberated inside Ahmedabad’s Ambedkar Hall, where over 2,000 people led by Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (RDAM) gathered on Tuesday to mark one year of flogging of Dalit youths by alleged gau rakshaks in Una as they were skinning a cow’s carcass. The event, which started with a two-minute silence for the victims of Amarnath yatra terror attack, was attended by former JNU students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar, brother of Junaid Khan who was lynched by a mob on a train in Faridabad recently, Raza Haider of anti-lynching campaign Notinmyname and Patidar leader Reshma Patel.

    The meeting started with a video on the flogging incident and continued for nearly five hours as one by one the speakers gave hard-hitting speeches centred around the rights of marginal communities, interspered with slogans of “hume chahiyeh azadi” and “Inqualab Zindabad”.

    “The Una movement has been a milestone and we will make su-re that we do not let the spirit fade. The terror of gau rakshas has increased in the last one year, but we need to come together to fight it,” said RDAM leader Jignesh Mewani as he exhorted people to join Azadi Koonch, a week-long march to mark the Una flogging anniversary, scheduled to begin from Mehsana on Wednesday. “The Mehsana authorities have withdrawn permission for the march, but we will gather here and get detained if we have to,” said Mewani.

    Kanhaiya hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling him “prachar mantri”. “Modi has brought acchey din only through Twitter. He said demonitisation is a surgical strike against terrorism. So how will you explain Amarnath attack… We are a secular country and things like Azadi Koonch are our way of talking about equality… Azadi Koonch is a march questioning the Gujarat model,” he said. “Let us make sure that in the 2017 Gujarat elections, we sent the lotus (BJP) back to its house. Azadi Kooch has the support of Patidars,” said Resham Patel.

    The Ahmedabad programmes were held amidst a controversial transcript of a video of the incident, attached to the CBI chargesheet against the Una cow vigilantes in the flogging case, revealing that accused had tried to identify the Dalits as Muslims.

    Jignesh Mewani with Kahniya Kumar at Saraspur

    According to the Gujarati transcript, the accused tried call one of the victims as Muslim, saying, “Tell the truth … You belong to which community? Don’t do drama here … stop crying … Beat him up. What is your name? I know you very well … Your name is Aarif … Why did you run away? Tell me will you ever run away? You slaughtered the cow.”  It adds, “Let us tie them to the vehicle and thrash them. Only then will they understand."

    The chargesheet identifies mastermind of Una flogging as Sanatan Gau Seva Trust's Shantilal Monpara, who allegedly hatched a conspiracy with his aides to claim that the Dalit men had slaughtered the cow should be identified as Muslims. The Dalits were actually skinning a cow, their hereditary occupation, killed by a lion. Dalits from Gujarat strongly believe that  justice has not been delivered to the Una flogging victims. Gujarat's largest Dalit NGO Navsarjan Trust's Kantilal Parmar says, "The Gujarat government has refused to transfer case to the special atrocity court in Veraval, though one year has passed." The Sarvaiyas, who were assaulted by the cow vigilantes, were also in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. “We came here to give an application to the Collector demanding action in the flogging case. There has been no justice,” said Balu Sarvaiya, father of one of the flogging victims, adding that he will not be joining Azadi Koonch march.

    Listing what has not been done to the Sarvaiya family and other Dalits in the hereditary occupation, Parmar says, the government has "not allocated agriculture land for livelihood of the surviving  family", nor has it allocation land for "burial ground in Mota Samdhiyala village to the Dalits for cremation", as the dominant caste people do not allow them use the common village cremation ground.

    Pointing out that the state government has not done "proper rehabilitation of the victims' family, Parmar says, "Nor has the state government provided employment to the unemployed Dalits after many of them decided to quit their routine work of skinning dead cattle."

    Published first in Sabrangindia.

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