The progressing agitation by Dalits in Gujarat guaranteed its first victim from the group when one of the more than 20 young people who had attempted suicide died on Sunday even as a large number of protesters joined at a rally here where the state’s BJP government went under attack.
The state dalit leaders while asking their community to give up the work of disposing dead cattle to “send a message” to the government also warned that if atrocities on the community does not stop they will “show their strength” in the Assembly polls in Gujarat due in 2017.
Yogesh Hirabhai Solanki, 25, was rushed to Ahmedabad civil hospital at midnight last night from Rajkot after his condition deteriorated but passed away soon after, police said. Solanki had attempted suicide along with two others at Parabari village in Dhoraji taluka of Rajkot on July 19 during the statewide protests against thrashing of Dalits in Una for skinning a dead cow on July 11.
“I was pained by the attack but I’m elated today that the pain that has been inflicted on my family has brought together the entire Dalit community,” said Jeetu Sarvaiyas, whose brother was among the four men attacked in Una.
A policeman was slaughtered in Amreli town on July 19 when Dalit dissidents pelted stones at a police headquarters. As a part of their proceeding with dissents over the assault on their group individuals, a huge number of Dalits went to a mass social gathering held in Sabarmati region here.
Addressing the gathering, Dalit leader and Convener Jignesh Mevani put forward a slew of demands before the State Government and asked his community to take a pledge to stay away from their traditional work of disposing the dead cattle.
“To give a strong message to the Government, I urge all Dalits to discontinue the work of disposing dead animals. I also want you to take a pledge of discontinuing the work of cleaning sewer lines. We no longer wish to do this work and want Government to allot agriculture land to us, so that we can live a respectable life,” said Mevani.
“If atrocities on Dalits does not stop, Dalits will show their strength in the 2017 Assembly polls,” he asserted, targeting the BJP Government in the State. He put forward a series of demands and asked the Government to come to the table for talks, just like it did with the Patel quota leaders. “We want everyone who thrashed Dalits in Una to be arrested under PASA. If they come out on bail, Government must extern them from five districts,” he said. PASA is a stringent law dealing with anti-social activities.
Other demands include withdrawal of cases filed against Dalits during recent protests, speedy probe in the 2012 Thangadh police firing (in which 3 Dalits were killed), allotment of five acres of land for community members who want to discontinue their traditional work and martial arts training to SC members for self defence.
“This agitation will continue till Government accepts our demands. If Government can sit with Patels and accept their demands, it should do the same with Dalits and call them for a meeting,” said Mevani.