On August 14, a day before the Dalit Asmita Yatra was to reach Una on the culmination of its 10-day walk, the Yatra was blocked ahead of Samter village, as dominant caste Darbars dared dalits to go past them. When the Dalit Camera and Two Circles’ team reached, they were not allowed to head forward, and their phones were almost snatched away. The Darbars threatened and attacked the participants, including Dalit Camera’s reporter Greeshama Rai and Two Circle’s reporter Amit Kumar. Their bike was pushed off the road, but luckily they escaped without major injuries. The threat of violence against the local dalits and those participating in the #ChaloUna march continues to be very high.
The incident happened just a few kilometers from Una, the town where gau-rakshaks tied up dalits who were skinning the dead carcass of a cow to a pole and beat them up brutally, alleging beef consumption. The Una atrocity sparked off massive protests across the State, leading to the formation of the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti in July. The Samiti organised the Dalit Mahasammelan on 31 July at Ahmedabad, a show of strength condemning growing Dalit atrocities in Gujarat which saw a turnout of more than 20,000 dalits from across the State. Shortly after, the Dalit Asmita Yatra, a foot march from Ahmedabad to Una was flagged off demanding justice for the victims of the Una caste brutality. During the course of the Yatra, dalits in more than 25 villages took pledges to give up the traditional caste-based occupations of skinning or disposing cattle and cleaning sewer lines.
Subodh Parmar of the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti, while condemning Sunday's attack, told DC with absolute conviction that they are undeterred. “The Dalit Asmita Yatra will continue and end in a public meeting at Una as planned. It is on the police and the administration to ensure that adequate arrangements are made for our protection.”
Here is an interview Dalit Camera did with one of the gau-rakshaks:
The second part of the interview:
First published in Dalit Camera, together with a transcript of the interview and translations into English, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi.
Featured image courtesy Dalit Camera.