Thousands of Dalits from across the state, who had trooped into Una on Monday , pledged to relinquish skinning dead cattle and entering gutters to clean the drainage. Dalits also issued a one-month ultimatum to the state government that if they were not given land as an alternative income source, they would undertake a `rail roko’ of an unprecedented scale.
Jignesh Mevani, convener of Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti, told TOI on Tuesday if the government does not start working on land allotment to Dalits, they will launch rail blockade from September 15. “The venue for beginning the protest will be announced on September 1,” he said.
However, situation had turned tense after the rally as Dalits returning to their native villages were attacked near Samter, the village 7 km from Una from where maximum number of cow vigilantes were arrested for flogging four Dalits on July 11.
At least 14 Dalits were injured in two separate assaults on Monday as well as Sunday afternoon near Samter. Eight of them were shifted to Ahmedabad for treatment.
The situation only worsened in the evening when a mob attacked police teams and torched their vehicles in Samter. In Samter, police lobbed 46 tear gas shells and fired in the air to disperse the mob and eight cops were injured in the clash.
The clarion call “You take cows’ tail, give us land” given by the Dalit leaders found support from JNU students leader Kanhaiya Kumar and family of Rohit Vemula, the Hyderabad student who had committed suicide, and renowned documentary maker Anand Patwardhan. Vemula’s mother Radhika and Balu Sarvaiya, whose two sons were among the four brutalized on July 11, hoisted the tricolor.
“I am yet to get justice but the Dalit movement in Gujarat has forced chief minister Anandiben Patel to resign. I’m here so that no other Dalit children face what my son did,” Radhika Vemula told the gathering.
Kanhaiya Kumar said that Dalits of Gujarat have punctured the much-hyped Gujarat model of development. “We want freedom from casteism and brahminical culture,” he said. “Several years ago, (LK) Advani had also embarked on a yatra from Somnath. But that yatra was to divide the country on communal lines. The yatra initiated by Dalits and Mewani is aimed at ending the scourge of casteism,” Kumar said to a thundering applause.