Success of The Saroda Land Struggle: Resisting Savarna-Patriarchy
Saroda, September 21 – The activism of Jignesh Mevani and the members of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikaar Manch (RDAM), along with the residents of Saroda Village, bore fruit when the mapping of the 220 bigha land allotted to Dalits in Saroda took place on 21st September. The possession of the land will be completed in 15 days, as guaranteed by the Mamalatdar. The ten years long unwavering struggle of the people, to get what is rightfully and lawfully theirs, has finally paid off.
The land allocation was completed on paper in 2006 but the legitimate possession of the land didn’t take place for the past one decade. The stir caused by the ‘Raasta Roko’ protest woke up the concerned authorities – the Collector of Ahmedabad district, and the Prant Adhikari and the Mamalatdar of Dholka Taluka – from their slumber to implement the ruling. After the protest in Dholka on 19th September and the Raasta Roko Andolan in Ahmedabad on 20th September by the RDAM team and residents of Saroda village, the protesters were detained by Gujarat Police for several hours and were carried all over Ahmedabad in police vans before they were driven to Saroda late at night, as accounted by the activists involved.
In related news, ACP Arpita Patel allegedly assaulted a media reporter from Dalit Camera when she refused to budge after being asked to leave the area while documenting the agitation. The ACP questioned the validity of the media outlet by saying “koi media DC-VC nahin hain.” Suffice to say, alternative media outlets that specifically cover Dalit issues are non-existent in the eyes of the state, much like the people it sought to disperse. The complicity of police women in the violent patriarchal model of the state is saddening, as seen by the physical coercion of Dalit women protesters. Internalization of patriarchal power by women who extend violence against ‘other’ women is inexplicable.
In the afternoon of 21st September, when the RDAM team visited Saroda village again, the mapping of land had reportedly already started and the Mamlatdar has assured that the mapping will take place on an everyday basis till the entire process is completed. The residents of Saroda village have made it clear that if further discrepancies arise within these 15 days they won’t hesitate to organize another ‘rail roko’ and ‘raasta roko’ sit-in. This is, in all capacities, an iconic land struggle that sets the tone for future movements. This isn’t all that the struggle has brought forth. The sheer number in which women participated in the struggle is as important as the success of the agitation. Given the patriarchal imbalance, the number of women coming out to agitate in the face of authoritative brutality is powerful.
It becomes evident in a documented video that the women resisted arrest for as long as they could. The police meanwhile roughed them up, which reached a point where the women started disrobing to shame the authorities but to no avail. Despite the escalation, the violence against them continued. Another video, that shows unconscious women who passed out after being manhandled by the police and are left in that state after being dumped at Police Grounds without medical assistance, highlights the apathy of these uniformed agents of the state. Despite the adversarial conditions, the grit and determination of the women outshone the excessive physical coercion that wanted them to give up. “No longer will we sit quietly and tolerate what you’ve been doing to us for decades, we have nothing to lose, never have you given us any dignity, now we will not stop till we get our land”, said the women (as reported by Dalit Camera).
Complacency with exploitative structures has to be checked and avoided. Setting an example for future resistance, it should be noted that to not back down from just demands for the marginalized is the need of the hour. The government expects people to be grateful for just existing, keeping in mind the unprecedented attacks on Dalits by the self-appointed custodians of the state who probably fear a toppling of status quo, and seek to instill the fear of death in the people who are affected the most. As this struggle shows, peaceful protest trumps violent intimidations in the long run.