In Solidarity with Dalit Asmita Yatra
The 15th of August, 2016 will be a historic occasion for the subcontinent for a few significant reasons. Primary amongst these is the culmination in Gujarat’s Una of the eleven-day-long Dalit Asmita Yatra that began from Ahmedabad on the 4th of August in protest of the rising Dalit atrocities in the state by the lumpen vigilante groups nurtured by the BJP, also known as Gau Rakshak Samitis.
The beating of seven members of a Dalit family and public stripping and thrashing of four of them in Gujarat’s Una on July 11th for picking up a cow carcass was one amongst many cases of such lynchings, public beatings, humiliation and even murder of Dalit persons in the state by cow vigilante groups on (often fake) accusations of cow slaughter. However, the Una incident, where the men were tied to a car and publicly beaten through the day seemed to have been the last straw.
The Una atrocity led to an unprecedented rage and protests from Dalit communities across the state, where tens of thousands of Dalits pledged never to pick up a cow carcass again. However, the significant aspect of the events leading up to the 15th of August culmination of the rising Dalit rage in Gujarat (which has now began to percolate to other states, many claiming that such a scale and nature of Dalit protests have never been seen in the country since the time of independence) is that it has not remained a single-issue struggle limited to protests against atrocities.
The protesters, motivated by young leaders like RTI activist and lawyer Jignesh Mewani, have raised a host of issues relating to sustenance, land/forest, reservation rights, employment and dignity which relate to the on-the-ground reality of Dalit lives in the state. Mewani has questioned the limits of the leadership provided by intellectuals who are often removed from the ground reality of Dalit lives in the state and wished to turn the attention of the public towards economic rights, labour and its crucial interactions with caste. Once again, in another context, we find clear and resounding slogans of ‘Azaadi’ being raised by a large contingent of Dalit women in the state, and in some ways the call for Dalit ‘Azaadi’ on 15th August becoming a signifier of the limits of single-issue politics.
15th August in Una might just be a day for Dalits in Gujarat claiming total freedom, where dignity, livelihood, labour, economic, gender, land and forest rights come together in order to paint a picture of freedom that is total, complex and liberated from the trappings of vanguardism at the same time. It will also mark a day when the movement has forged unprecedented unity among the Dalits, Muslims, Adivasis, Landless and Workers of the State. This day, therefore, becomes significant and exciting as witness to how the people ultimately lead themselves in ways that neither the state nor capital nor their instruments of oppression can ever predict. Chalo Una is our new call to Azaadi. People’s Film Collective expresses its unqualified support and admiration for the movement.
Statement by People’s Film Collective
Featured Image by People’s Film Collective