• What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

    Rajiv Shah

    December 26, 2019

    A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

    Held at the Dalit Shakti Kendra, a Dalit youth empowerment and training centre set up about two decades ago by top human rights activist Martin Macwan, the meet simultaneously resolved to send thousands of pre-printed postcards to Modi saying a "No" to CAA and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), because they run against the spirit of Article 14, which promises equality to all before law, irrespective of religion, caste, creed, race, region and sex.

    Attended by hundreds of Dalit activists from across Gujarat, Macwan, who came up with the twin resolutions adopted at the meet, said, “As CAA and NRC directly undermine the concept of equality before law, which is basic to the Indian Constitution, Dalits, Adivasis and other oppressed sections of society would take out a rally with the participation of 14,000 people on April 14. Till then, activists will go to villages and towns with the message as to why CAA and NRC isn’t just about Muslims, as the Government of India claims, but all those who fight for equal status."

    Macwan told the meet, “The Modi government has sought to camouflage its real intention of undermining Article 14 by stating in the CAA is about providing shelter and citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan in India, with the exception of Muslims. But what about Dalits’ religious persecution in India? Our survey suggests that 90% of villages prohibit entry of Dalits into temples.”

    Former BJP MLA from Rajkot, now independent Dalit leader Siddharth Parmar, told the meet that the current fight is between the Indian Constitution, authored by BR Ambedkar, and those who want that the country to live by the codes scripted in the ancient treatise Manusmriti. “The real intention of the government is revive Manusmriti, which codifies inequalities, even as undermining the equality focus of the Constitution”, he said.

    Also pointing towards how “Dalit Valmikis, who are the most oppressed section in Hindu hierarchy, alone are involved in caste-based job of manual scavenging even today”, Macwan said, “We would be demanding from the Government of India to create a new register, of the villages which don't permit entry of Dalits into temples, irrespective of religion. Also, we would be demanding that from the Prime Minister declare India untouchability free on the next Independence day, August 15, 2020.”

    Siddharth Parmar

    Addressing the meet, well-known development expert and gender trainer Gagan Sethi, founder of the NGO Janvikas, revealed that detention centres for so-called foreigners weren’t there just in Assam, where the NRC process has been completed by declaring about 19 lakh people as non-citizens, 60% of them Hindus. “I have myself discovered that three detention centres exist even in Ahmedabad, off Sarkhej area. Here, those identified as Bangladeshis are randomly picked up for interrogation and kept for around three weeks”, he said.

    Striking a similar chord, Uttam Parmar, a South Gujarat Gandhian activist, said, “CAA and NRC are not just about excluding Muslims, as our rulers are propagating. It’s about seeking exclusion of Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backward Classes, who have been legally recognized equal by the Indian Constitution. Our rulers are unable to reconcile themselves with the revolution brought about by Gandhiji and Ambedkar through the Constitution by providing equality before law. They are trying to divide the country on communal lines. It is well known who pitted Dalits against Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots."

    Recalling that the meet, held on December 25, which happens to be the anniversary of Ambedkar’s campaign against Manusmriti by burning it on December 25, 1927, well-known academic Ghanshyam Shah said, “The Manusmriti burning wasn’t just burning of a book. It was a symbolic gesture to burn the idea of inequality, codified in the ancient treatise.” He wondered whether, through CAA, India was following Pakistan by making religion as the basis for citizenship. “Our rulers must remember, India’s Constitution is not Pakistan’s, which provides supremacy to a particular religion”, he said.


    First published in Counterview.

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