Gujarat activist says Dalits have right to land, vows to stop BJP in 2019 polls
Hiral Dave, Ahmedabad: Demanding land for every below poverty line (BPL) Dalit family in Gujarat, the face of
this agitation Jignesh Mevani is all set for a rail roko on October 1. In an interview to Hindustan Times, this 35-year-old journalist-turned-activist says it is just the beginning as he has his eyes set on poll-bound UP as well where he plans to expose the ‘Gujarat model’ of development through a 15-day march in a bid to stop BJP from retaining power in 2019.
Q) Just a few days before rail roko, you have been booked for unlawful assembly and damaging police vehicles. Are you going ahead with the October 1 stir?
A) The government has left us with no option. Unlike multiple calls for talks given to Patidars agitating for OBC status, Dalits’ demands and unrest have been totally ignored. After three mega conventions (of Dalits), a 10-day march and numerous detentions, the government has not even once shown any sign of dialogue.
Q) Isn’t your demand for 5 acre land to all the BPL Dalit families unrealistic? Is it practically possible?
A) If not 5 acre, give us 3 or 2 acre. But there has to be some willingness for negotiations on their part (government). As far as practicality is concerned, large chunks of surplus and waste land, which according to laws should be distributed among Dalits, is lying unattended. What is stopping the government from allotting this land? It is the right of every Dalit to have land and the government should provide it to them. If government land is not available, then the government should purchase it if it’s really interested in empowering the community. Patidars were given financial package. The government announced 10% EBC quota. But our demands have been totally ignored.
Q) Does the government or you have any data/number of BPL Dalit families and other details like where they are and how many?
A) This is one of our demands that the government should first carry out such survey.
Q) You gave a call saying Dalits will not dispose carcasses after four youths in Una were thrashed for skinning a dead cow. What happened to that?
A) There has been only a partial success. Many did not agree to the call and others resumed the work after a few days. This happened due to lack of awareness. Dalits need to overcome the mentality that they are supposed to do only the ‘dirty’ jobs. This is 21st century and they should give up skinning and related jobs. At the same time, the government should also make use of technology and use machines for skinning and removing carcasses. Dalits should be made aware about Dr (Bhim Rao) Ambedkar’s principle that ‘starve but do not succumb’.
Q) Dalit movement in Gujarat is apparently riven with groupism. Many organizations, but no plan to unite for the cause. Why?
A) I believe the time has come for youth leadership to take the charge. The movement needs energy and enthusiasm that only youth can provide. But we do welcome any guidance coming our way.
Q) Marathas in neighbouring Maharashtra are agitating. The state has seen intense anti-Dalit protests. What is your view on their demand to scrap the law protecting Dalits?
A) This is the most disturbing and unrealistic demand.
Q) Are you not concerned by the movement against Dalits there?
A) Maratha movement is nothing but a ploy to divert attention from the fact that ‘achhe din’ have not arrived, that inflation is still out of control, that Narmada water is not going to reach your fields. This is a matter of concern for us. But I do not think this is the right time for us to directly join hands with Dalits there. I fear any statement made by me in Gujarat against the Maratha movement will put the security of the community members here at risk.
Q) You were spotted in Uttar Pradesh which is going to have assembly elections next year. Do you plan to take the movement to UP?
A) Yes, very much. We have plans to expose the BJP in UP. Our sight is fixed on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, which is why the BJP should not be allowed win UP. We are equally against the Congress. Through a 15-day march from Bundelkhand to Luknow at the end of this year, we plan to expose the ‘Gujarat model’ of development.
Q) You were formerly associated with AAP. Any plans to plunge in active politics in 2017?
A) Yes. I will be politically active but not with any of the parties. In the next Gujarat assembly elections, I will continue to raise all the sensitive issues and make efforts to build a movement around it.
Posted by Nazrul Islam
on September 30, 2016. Filed under State
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