15 August 2016 – India’s Independence Day - witnessed some unique and inspiring movements. The Dalits of Una and the adivasis of Bastar chose to mark Independence Day by highlighting the freedom and dignity denied to them. In this feature we carry reports from the yatras (marches) in Gujarat and Chhattisgarh and reflect on the political challenge presented to Brahmanism, communal fascism, and state terror by these movements.
“You keep the cow’s tail – just give us our land” – this slogan of the Una Independence March summed up a social revolution in Gujarat and India. In a slap on the face to the Sanghi goons who have been beating up, lynching, and killing Muslims and Dalits on the pretext of ‘cow protection’, the Dalits of Gujarat have risen up in thousands to declare their intention to give up the degrading work of disposing of animal carcasses and going down drains. They have instead demanded allocation of agricultural land and alternative livelihood. Significantly, they made common cause with the Muslim victims of the cow vigilantes, raising the slogan ‘Dalit Muslim Bhai Bhai’ (Dalits and Muslims are brothers).
The Dalit Asmita Yatra traversed Saurshtra to culminate in the Azaadi Kooch (Independence Rally) at Una town. Participants in the yatra were mostly Dalit youth from south Gujarat’s rural areas, but also included activists from Gujarat as well as the rest of the country. The Yatra was led by the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladai Samiti, whose leaders were mostly young Dalit activists including Jignesh Mevani and Subodh Parmar. Some of the democratic activists from Gujarat who supported the Dalit Asmita Yatra were Rahul Sharma, the police officer harassed by the Gujarat Government for protecting Muslims in Bhavnagar during the 2002 pogrom; Nirjhari Sinha and Pratik Sinha of Jan Sangharsh Manch that has fought legal and political battles of the victims of riots and fake encounters in Gujarat.
CPI(ML)’s MLA from Tarari (where Bathani Tola, site of the 1996 Ranveer Sena massacre is located) Sudama Prasad, former Darauli MLA Amarnath Yadav, as well RYA Bihar President Manoj Manzil, RYA’s UP State President Rakesh Singh, and CPI(ML) leaders Ravindra Yadav from Arwal as well as Comrade Jitendra Paswan and Sujit Kushwaha from Bihar, Comrades Laxmanbhai Varia from Valsad and Abhishek Parmar from Ahmedabad participated in the yatra.
On 15th August, Radhika Vemula hoisted the national flag at Una and cultural activists of Gujarat, Charul and Vinay, led the gathering in singing the national anthem. Radhika Vemula told the gathering that hoisting the flag was a way of reminding ourselves that the country does not belong to a dominant caste or a dominant religion – it belongs to every citizen. Balubhai Sarvaiya and his family members of Mota Samadhiya village (victims of the Gau Rakshak attack that sparked off the movement) were also felicitated on the stage. The stage had the slogan – ‘Dalits of the world unite’.
On 15th August, an AIPF team comprising CPI(ML) PB member Kavita Krishnan, as well as AIPF Campaign Committee member Dr Laxminarayana, Dr Rati Rao, Deepika from PUCL, Venkatesh from Dalit Sangharsh Samiti, Karnataka and Shivaprakash from Ambedkar Buddhist Society, Andhra Pradesh, and AISA National President Sucheta De, participated in the rally at Una.
Freelance journalist and photographer Javed Iqbal walked with the yatra. Some of his observations, accompanying his photographic documentation, are excerpted here from his Facebook wall:
The Asmita rally was mostly covered on foot, going village to village. There were no loudspeakers and sloganeering was done in groups, with loud calls of Jai Bhim, Azaadi and Halla Bol.
The children of Hemal, marched most of the way towards the village Timbi before the core protestors began to carry them. They shouted slogans throughout….
Dozens of people would be injured before and after the independence day rally when dominant caste villagers from Samter, attacked people attending the rally. The next day they would attack people leaving Una.
Babubhai from Thangadh was the quick to comment on how the police were so easy to open fire on them four years ago when three Dalit boys from their village were killed, and were much more circumspect when the Dalits were attacked on the way to the Una rally. Himatbhai Rathod from Thangadh, claimed that his attackers had even videographed him.
Profiling some of the other participants in the March and Rally, Javed Iqbal wrote:
Chandrika Solanki from Baroda is a teacher and an Ambedkarite activist who has been trying to get the government to further recognize Sayajibaug Garden, the park in Baroda where in 1918, Dr.Ambedkar had found himself and resolved to fight for Dalit rights, after being humiliated and evicted from a Parsi inn. ...
Sushila Prajapati, is a feminist activist from Ahmedabad who has worked for years on cultural practices and gender discrimination.
Jyoti Jagtap from cultural troupe Kabir Kala Manch was also a part of the march in Una. Three members from KKM have been in prison as undertrials for over three years now....
Ravindra Yadav from the CPI ML is from Arwal in Bihar, where the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre had taken place in 1997, when the Ranveer Sena murdered 58 landless Dalits....
Rama Naga and Pradeep Narwal from JNU had given short rousing speeches to a cheering crowd. A large group of young boys behind me screamed in protest when the microphone was taken away from Rama Naga. ‘We will implement the Una Model all over India!’ he had said to rousing applause.
Javed Iqbal noted:
The effect of the month long agitation is sometimes easily visible on the roadside. This carcass was found on the way from Hemal to Thimbi and had been on the roadside for days. (see photo below)
Manoj Manzil, RYA Bihar President wrote about the Asmita Yatra:
We’ve seen the spark of awakening, revolt and resistance of the Dalits, the poor and oppressed challenge the feudal forces in Bihar, braving massacres and feudal reaction. Now we’re seeing that spark ignite a social revolution in the hostile terrain of Gujarat, where feudal oppression is compounded by communal-fascist political hegemony. The Dalit Asmita Yatra that moved from village to village in South Gujarat was a display of Dalit unity and assertion, of Muslim and Dalit unity – a resounding exposure of Modi’s much-touted ‘Gujarat model’ and a revolt in the RSS’ own Hindutva laboratory against Brahminism and the Sangh Parivar’s communal and casteist politics.
The slogan that hurts and challenges the communal and casteist forces, especially the Sangh Parivar, the most is ‘Dalit Muslim Bhai Bhai, Milkar Chhedo Nayee Ladayee” (Dalits and Muslims are brothers, together let’s wage a new struggle).
From village to village, Dalits took the pledge not to dispose of cow or animal carcasses, not to enter gutters or dispose of human excreta – in short, never to do the demeaning work that the stinking Brahminical caste system has assigned to them.
When the yatra reached Hemal village in Amreli district and we were resting after our meal, I spoke to a young Dalit agricultural worker Ramesh Parmar. He said, “We have to take our own plates and glasses to the fields, because the dominant caste farmers won’t give us food or water in their vessels. Dalits are not allowed into temples in our village. Even in social functions in the village, the dominant castes are served food separately from us. We are made to feel as though we’re not human.”
The Yatra from Ahmedabad to Una covered 350 kilometres, crossing four districts of Ahmedabad, Botad, Amreli, and Gir-Somnath, stopping at many villages where the marchers were welcomed with flowers by young people, children, women and aged folk, who would then join the Yatra for a part of the journey. Activists from the yatra addressed public gatherings at many places. Wherever the RYA and CPI(ML) activists spoke, we told the gathering about the struggles for land, dignity and rights waged by the oppressed in Bihar, with red flags in their hands. We spoke of the need for unity between Left and Ambedkarite movements. Hailing the slogan of Gujarat’s Dalits “Lath lekar jayenge, zameen khaali karayenge”, we spoke about the struggles in Bihar where Dalits and other oppressed people freed ceiling surplus and gair mazarua land and redistributed it – defending it in the face of feudal guns. Dozens of villages like Charugram, Dr Nirmal Gram, and Sona Tola were settled in this manner, where Dalits today live and cultivate fields. Even now, the CPI(ML) MLA from Darauli (Siwan), Satyadev Ram, as well as the RYA National President Amarjit Kushwaha are in jail today because of one such struggle, where Dalits who freed land illegally grabbed by Brahmins and built their homes on it, defended themselves against goons who fired at them in presence of the police.
One question that all are asking is: the Gujarat Government is so eager to give lands to Ambani, Adani and Tata, why not to landless Dalits? Landless Dalits in Gujarat have officially been allotted 1,63,808 acres of land, and there are some 50,000 acres of bhoodan land also, but these are all mostly still under control of the dominant Patel or Darbar castes, and the landless Dalits are yet to get possession of them.
In Gujarat, the conviction rate in Prevention of Atrocity Act cases is six times lower than the national average. The NCRB data of 2014 shows that the national conviction rate is 28.8% - while the conviction rate in Gujarat is an even more pitiful 3.4%. This data shows the true face of the Gujarat model. Impunity is infectious: where crimes against Muslims enjoy open impunity and patronage, where power openly boasts of its crimes, can Dalits expect justice?
After the rally, CPI(ML) PB member Kavita Krishnan and I joined Tushar Parmar and Abhishek Parmar to visit the families of the three Dalit youth of Thangadh village - Pankaj Sumra, 17, Mehul Rathod, 16, and Prakash Parmar, 27 - who had been shot dead by police in 2012. The Dalits of Thangadh had been resisting an attack by the dominant Darbars – but the police fired on the Dalit victims not the aggressors, killing them in cold blood. The post mortem showed bullets to the chest – clearly firing wasn't intended to disperse the crowd but to kill for daring to challenge casteist violence. The families of the victims were on dharna and hunger strike at Gandhinagar, protesting against the closure report filed by the police in the case, and demanding that the report of a one-man enquiry commission, that had been submitted in 2013, be made public immediately.
But Una has truly given the country another ‘Gujarat model’ – a model of Dalit awakening and struggle, of Dalit-Muslim unity, of giving up demeaning work and struggling for land and dignified livelihood instead. This spark is becoming a wildfire, spreading across the country, delivering a body blow to communal fascism.
Below are excerpts from Jignesh Mevani’s speech at the Una Azaadi Rally:
Friends, Modi did not open his mouth just like that. When the power of the oppressed and the poor came in full force on to the streets of Ahmedabad and Gujarat, they feared that the same cow-mother’s tail might become a noose for the BJP. So Modi said “if you have to shower bullets, shower them on me, spare the Dalits!” We want to ask Modi — When in Thangadh village of Surendranagar district of Gujarat, in 2012, police gunned down 3 young dalit boys with AK-47s, like terrorists, did you then say “Don’t shower bullets on them, shower bullets on me” at that time ? We will not fall for Hindutva tricks and deceptions any more. That is why we are saying, “Modi, keep the cow’s tail for yourself, give us our land).” Give us land, give us the start-ups you keep talking about – because we won’t do dirty jobs any more.
Many years ago, Babasaheb had asked us to stop removal of dead carcass or cleaning sewers as occupations. Today, this is a struggle for self-respect and dignity. Stand up with me to take the vow:
We, the people from the Dalit community of Gujarat, from the grounds of Una vow, that after today, never in our lives, will not dispose of dead carcasses, will not work in manual scavenging; and instead, place the following demands in front of the government– that every Dalit family in Gujarat be alloted 5-acres of agricultural land each.
If within 30 days – by September 15th - the Gujarat government does not start the process of allotment of agricultural land, then we will start Rail Roko Andolan.
Wherever we have marched, our muslim comrades have welcomed and encouraged us wholeheartedly. Let us give a hand for them!
Friends, it has been a great weakness of the Dalit resistance movement that we did not take along and fight for the Valmiki community when we fought for our liberation. So, in whichever village we went as part of the march, I have been saying that if I had two sisters, I would have been very happy if I one of them could be married to a Valmiki and the other to a Muslim.
Dalits of the world unite! Workers of the world unite! Women of the world unite!
One of the 10 demands we have placed in front of the government is that the 1,20,000 cases under Forest Rights Acts filed by our Adivasi brothers and sisters be resolved.
I have also just learned that the Gujarat government has removed the Consent Clause from the new Land Bill. Which means, agricultural land can now be snatched away from farmers without their consent. Is this acceptable to us? (the gathering responded with a unanimous ‘No!’)
Social Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment requirements have also been removed. The Dalit movement, workers’ and farmers’ movements will join hands in our call for Rail Roko.
Friends if we do Rail Roko, do understand that you might be jailed. Are you ready? (the gathering responded with an enthusiastic ‘yes’).
We will fight till we win. Jai Bhim! Inquilab Zindabad!
In an attempt to understand the roots of Dalit oppression and resistance in Gujarat, the AIPF team interacted with activists of the Navsarjan Trust that been documenting such oppression and raising issues of Dalits for long. The AIPF team also spoke with well-known sociologist Ghanshyam Shah, activist and intellectual Achyut Yagnik, as well as Shalini Randeria, a social anthropologist now based in Vienna, who has extensively researched Dalit communities in Gujarat.
We reproduce some pertinent observations here.
A study by the Navsarjan Trust, titled “Understanding Untouchability: A Comprehensive Study of Practices and Conditions in 1,589 villages”, conducted in Gujarat between 2007-2010, had painstakingly documented evidence of widespread untouchability, tacitly approved and encouraged by the Government, in 98% of the villages. These included untouchability in public health centres, public water facilities, mid-day meals, sitting arrangement in government schools and panchayat offices. Navsarjan activists say that these findings were submitted by them to the government – but the Gujarat Government remained in denial mode. To counter the Navsarjan findings, the Gujarat sponsored a report by the Centre for Environment Planning and Technology University which claimed, based on a study of five villages, that untouchability was no longer an issue in Gujarat!
This denial has practical consequences. Ghanshyam Shah points out that Gujarat ranks fourth in the country in Dalit atrocities – yet the Gujarat government has violated the law that requires a dedicated court to hear atrocity cases; and investigation of such cases by a DSP-level or higher police official; and mandatory twice-a-year meetings of the high-power vigilance and monitoring committee for the implementation of the Act.
Ghanshyam Shah noted that in the Una atrocity, the ‘cow-protectors’ forced a Muslim boy to join them in thrashing the Dalits - to prove that Muslims are anti-beef. It is in this context that the ‘Dalit Muslim Bhai Bhai’ slogan raised by the Dalit uprising in Gujarat has such an important resonance. Shah pointed out that in his book ‘Social Harmony’ (Samajik Samrasta), Narendra Modi specifically argued against the ‘Dalit-Muslim Bhai Bhai’ slogan.
Shah observed that while the Patidars (Patels) are landed, the Darbars (descendants of feudal Kshatriya landlords) no longer have that much control over land. But the Darbars’ sense of feudal pride rests on a display of aggression and violence against Dalits.
Shah says that the Patidars have a history of anti-Dalit reaction – which came to the fore in the anti-reservation protests of 1981 and 1985. In 1981, the Patidars began the anti-quota agitation in a medical college. Note far from Ahmedabad, a Dalit who demanded land and wages was hanged in a panchayat office. In 1985 the Patidars’ anti-quota agitation against targeted Dalits. But even in the 1980s, there had been attempts to communalise and incite Dalits – who were resisting the anti-quota stir - against Muslims.
Shah points out that 10-12% of Dalits in Gujarat have a college education – but the model of jobless growth means that there are no jobs for these youth. The latest round of Patidar agitation that emerged as a demand for reservation (a re-articulation of the earlier openly anti-quota position) also took root in the climate of jobless growth in Gujarat.
Achyut Yagnik said it was especially significant that the Dalit protests and the mass of Dalit participation in the protests had come from rural South Gujarat, especially Saurashtra – fortress of the worst kind of feudalism. Also, that these protests had spread to North Gujarat and even to Modi’s home town.
Yagnik points out that Dalits who are a mere 7% in Gujarat, do not command any political clout. In neighbouring Maharashtra, Dalit poetry had heralded Dalit Panthers. In Gujarat, the Dalit Panthers was formed, and later there were some attempts to publish Dalit writing.
The Patels who were tenant farmers, were the main beneficiaries of land reform in Saurashtra, and emerged as landowners, becoming economically powerful by cultivating cash crops like groundnut and cotton. They later set up SMEs (small and medium industries) on the land. That is why Patidars are resentful not only of jobless growth but also of the Gujarat Government’s wooing of big capital at the cost of SMEs.
The Patidars used to be part of the Congress votebank. When the Congress adopted the KHAM formula – Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim – in 1985 the Patidars were ‘left out’ and this politically influential community supported the BJP.
Yagnik said that the Dalit middle class in Gujarat, till now, had largely aimed at assimilation not assertion. To assert their identity they would join a Hindu sect – the Swaminarayana Sect or the Asaram sect for instance – and this was usually the first step towards assimilation in Hindutva politics. At various places, Dalits had been foot soldiers of the RSS in the communal mobs that attacked Muslims in 2002.
Yagnik said that the ‘division of labourers’ that Ambedkar spoke of is visible even amongst Dalits. Dalits in Gujarat are stratified into seven communities – the unity of these communities in the present movement is most significant. Among Dalits, the ‘Garo’ community are the ones who perform the Brahmins’ tasks within the Dalit community – such as presiding over weddings. Vankars (weavers) comprise 48% of the Dalits in Gujarat, while Chamars (tanners) comprise 24%, and the remaining 25-27% comprise Bhangis (Valmikis).
Yagnik points out that weavers in several other states are not Dalits – in Gujarat they are counted among Dalits. One possible explanation of this could lie in the fact that the weavers in Gujarat eat the meat of the dead cow. (See Liberation, August 2016 for excerpts from Ambedkar’s treatise ‘The Untouchables - Who Were They And Why They Became Untouchables ?’, on the connections between the dead cow and being Dalit).
Shalini Randeria told us that during her research in rural Gujarat, she found that the weavers and Chamars would drag the carcass of the dead cow, a task that required strength and also skill (to keep the hide undamaged). The skinning would be done by the Chamars. The meat would be divided amongst Dalits in an hierarchy that mirrored or mimicked the varnashrama classification: i.e the top parts of the cow would go to the top-most among Dalits; the lowest parts to the lowest among Dalits, etc. Carcasses of horned and hoofed animals would be disposed of by the Vankars and Chamars, while Valmikis could only dispose of the bodies of lower/lesser animals – dogs, cats etc. In the jajmani system, the Dalit families had feudal ties with the families of the upper castes. The ultimate pollution was reserved for those who dealt with the human dead body. But the younger generation had already begun to give up these traditional occupations due to stigma.
Ranberia said that during her research she was intrigued to come across a large number of words used only by Dalits – words that did not find mention in the Gujarati dictionary at all. These words related to instruments of skinning or tanning, terms to describe specific forms of kinship peculiar to Dalits, and so on.
Modi’s book ‘Social Harmony’ – Samajik Samrasta – is an elaboration of the RSS notion of ‘harmony’. In that book, Modi says “Samar nahin, samrasta” – that is, “not war but harmony”. He says, don’t talk of breaking society, talk of reforming distortions in Hindu society and uniting Hindu society. In harnessing Ambedkar to this agenda, he maliciously suppresses Ambedkar’s call to annihilate caste, misrepresenting Ambedkar’s agenda as one of uniting Hindu society.
In this book, one passage is especially relevant in the context of the Una-inspired movement of Dalits that is demanding land. Modi approvingly narrates the story of ‘Vir Meghmaya’ (a Dalit saint of Gujarat, who sacrificed his life to bring water to a cursed stepwell and a parched kingdom. In return, he is said to have demanded that his community of Dalits be allowed to live within the villages rather than in segregated hamlets.) Modi, speaking of Meghmaya’s demands made of the king in exchange for his life, writes, “He demanded the facility of worshipping the Tulsi and the Pipal tree…. We may think of asking for a two-acre plot of land so that our children may be prosperous. Vir Meghmaya did not raise any demand for his personal or material benefit. In fact, he thought about the happiness of the entire society. …it was his thought to integrate the entire Hindu community… The very thought that my community should not get detached from the cultural mainstream which came to Dr Ambedkar in the 20th century, in fact first came to mind of Vir Meghmaya nearly a thousand years ago.”
So Modi is specifically telling Dalits here – you should demand the right to worship what Hindus worship, not demand land and other material benefits! The Dalits of Gujarat don’t seem to be listening, however.
This is a familiar theme with Modi: at the 6th convocation of the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University in January, he praised Ambedkar for suffering humiliation without complaint.
To compare Ambedkar the radical with a Dalit figure who is said to have died to benefit his oppressors, and who bartered his life for his community’s integration with Hindu society, is a travesty. But Modi has no qualms about committing this travesty with Ambedkar’s ideas.
Modi’s book is full of slurs against Muslims: he is telling Dalits to remain within the Hindu fold, not convert to Islam, and he is blaming Islamic ‘invasions’ for the worst of the caste system!
What are Modi’s thoughts on inter-caste marriage? In a speech given in Rajkot in 2004, reproduced in the book ‘Social Harmony’, Modi expounds the rationale for inter-caste marriages in terms that rationalise the caste-based division of labour: “In the past, there used to be the consideration of economics behind sticking to marriages within the same caste. Suppose the daughter of a potter marries a potter, she doesn’t need to learn how to knead the clay.” Why should the potter’s family have had to do the work of making pots down the generations? Why should this occupation be based on birth at all? Why should the daughter of a potter – or the daughter of the priest - not decide who she would like to marry? Modi, rather than asking these questions, gives a spurious economic rationale for the social oppressions of caste and gender. Modi continues, “Things have changed now… It was fine to think about marriages only within the community about 15-20 years ago. But the situation is different today and we must accept the change wholesomely, wholeheartedly.”
Ambedkar advocated inter-caste marriages in his own day, even before India became independent, as did various other groups who were his contemporaries. Yet here we have someone who is today India’s PM, saying that in his opinion, inter-caste marriage was not justified till the 1980s! Needless to say, Modi is silent on inter-faith marriage: in his book on ‘social harmony’, Muslims figure only as enemies and rapists of Hindus. Muslims or Christians are not included in the embrace of ‘social harmony’ as defined by the man who is today India’s PM: for Modi, ‘society’ is Hindu society, India is Hindu India, ‘we’ are always Hindus, ‘they’ are always Muslims.
The ‘we’ in the book also stands for savarna Hindus. It repeatedly exhorts ‘us’ to speak kindly to those who perform menial tasks for us, those who clean ‘our’ homes. There is never a breath to suggest that the Dalits require emancipation from these occupations and equality, not condescension!
The ongoing uprising in Gujarat that is spreading all over India is a slap in the face of this social vision of communal hatred and caste hierarchy masquerading as ‘harmony’.
A team comprising CPI(ML) Politburo member Prabhat Kumar, All India Rural and Agricultural Labour Association (AIRLA) national President and ex-Member of Parliament Rameshwar Prasad, AIPF’s Tushar Parmar, National Secretary of Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA) Amit Patanwadia and Abhishek Parmar of Black Panther visited Mota Samadhiyala village on 24 July and met the victims of the Gau-Rakshak atrocity and their families.
The team demanded that the Gujarat government ban ‘Gau Rakshak Dals’ and similar organisations throughout the state; and suspend the police personnel and officers of Gir-Somnath District involved in the incident and charge them under SC/ST Atrocities Act.
This team also joined a protest demonstration in Chandkhera in Ahmedabad organised by various dalit organisations where people signed on a 56-yards long cloth (mocking the Modi’s tall talk of 56″ chest).
In Delhi, a Citizen’s Protest Vigil against atrocities on Dalits and Muslims in the name of ‘Cow Protection’ was held on 23 July, which was addressed by activists of CPI(ML), AISA, AICCTU, AIPWA and RYA along with prominent activists like Bezwada Wilson, Nandita Narain, N D Pancholi and others.
THE Safai Karamchari Vikas Morcha affiliated to AICCTU and CPI (ML) Delhi State Committee, in solidarity with the Una uprising, held a Safai Karmchari Sankalp Karvaan – a pledge-taking campaign among sanitation workers. From 10th August to 15th August, gatherings of sanitation workers in East Delhi, Narela, Jahangirpuri and Ambedkar Nagar took pledges not to touch any dead-decaying animal and abstain from cleaning animal carcasses and not to clean any form of excreta or clean sewers/septic tanks. The campaign also reiterated the demands of the sanitation workers’ movement to end the inhuman exploitation of sanitation workers and casteist oppression, to ban all ‘cow vigilante groups’ and take punitive action against perpetrators of such casteist-communal violence. The campaign also strongly demanded that the government must urgently provide alternative employment and housing plot/ land to sanitation workers. Till such arrangement is in place, all contractual workers must be given salaries and status of permanent workers. Sanitation work must be mechanized and made more scientific to strictly avoid any handling of human excreta or carcasses by workers. The State also must ensure that wards of all sanitation workers provided free and quality education and their employment in alternative occupations must be guaranteed.
One of most significant issues stressed by sanitation workers in different places is lack of jobs, which forced even the educated Dalit youths to take up sanitation jobs. Sanitation workers also discussed about problems related to water supply and sanitation in local colonies. For instance, one of the participants in East Delhi campaign remarked - "Despite cleaning the filth day in and day out, our MLA does not even care about laying sewer lines in our colony. We have visited him many times, but he simply does not pay heed. We have also been to MCD office but the officials do not listen. They only want us to be inside the sewers but not to use them! " In its concluding gathering at Kusumpur on 15th August, many residents, most of whom are employed as contractual sanitation workers, came together to take the pledge - pledge to never enter another septic tank or sewer, to stop cleaning animal carcasses.
Comrade Anju, Vice President of AICCTU, JNU Unit in her address raised many important questions such as why only a particular people are forced to do work that should be done by machine and not by hand. Why, those who claim love for the cow shy away from tending to dead carcasses? She recalled the JNU contractual workers movement and how their union fought tooth and nail against the JNU administration to reject being forced to clean up dead carcasses. Comrades of AISA, AIPWA, RYA, AICCTU Delhi and CPIML also came forward in strong solidarity with the Safai Karamchari Sankalp Karvaan.
A CPI (ML) enquiry team visited the site of the incident on 21 July where feudal forces from the Bhumihar caste, protected by the BJP, urinated into the mouths of 2 dalit youths. The team reported that 2 dalit youths Rajiv Paswan and Munna Paswan (who are related to each other through marriage) went on a motorbike to witness a yagya in Babutola. When they returned from the yagya, they found their bike missing from the place where they had parked it. While they were searching for their bike, Suman Thakur and Sushil Thakur appeared and asked them what they were looking for. When the youths said they were looking for their bike, Suman Thakur and Sushil Thakur showed them the bike and demanded to see the papers for the vehicle. They then alleged that the bike was stolen and started beating the 2 dalit youths with rods and then locked them up in a room.
After that, the village head Mukesh alias Mukul Thakur came there and ordered that urination should be done into the mouths of the 2 dalit youths. When the father of the youths came to save them, his neck was tied with a cloth and he was also beaten. After that, the police personnel posted for the security of the yagya came there and advised the dalit youths to run away from there.
When the youths arrived at the thana, the thana in-charge, under pressure from local BJP MLA, Ashok Singh, refused to register the case; he even tore up the application submitted by the youths. A case was registered later only after strong protest demonstrations.
The enquiry team stated that the real cause behind the incident was that these people had not voted for candidates from the Bhumihar dominant caste in the Panchayat elections, and this attack was a revenge for that. This is truly an insult to democracy.
The enquiry team has called for immediate suspension of the thana in-charge and arrest of all the accused. It has also demanded that the Bihar government should take stern measures to stop such bestial occurrences. The team comprised of CPI (ML) district committee members Shatrughan Sahni and Parshuram Pathak, Paroo Party in-charge Jaleshwar Patel, Khet Mazdoor Sangh district Secretary Sitaram Paswan, and Saraiyya Party in-charge Pankaj Kumar.
ON August 9th, three Dalits - Mokati Yelush aged 58, Mokati Venkateswara Rao, aged 53 and Mokati Lakshman, aged 23 – were beaten up by a cow vigilante mob in Sudapalem of Uppalaguptham Mandal of East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh. The Dalits had been disposing of the carcass of a cow that had been electrocution, as requested by owners of a farmhouse. They were severely injured with sticks, rods and knives.
Left party lederrs Com Jalli Willson, MLC, CPI, Com Dadala Subbarao from CPM, Com Bugata Bangaruraju, CC member of CPI ML Liberation, Com U. Venkateswara Rao CPI ML New Democracy and Com Katam Nagaraju, MCPI visited the victims in hospital and protested at the police office. Left parties also held protests on 16 August on this issue. CPI(ML) Liberation held protests in Eleswaram, Tuni, Prathipadu, Jagamepeta in Kakinada also.
265 families of the mahadalit community have been living in Kataya Musahari of Biraul panchayat (Darbhanga district) for the past 45 years. At present there are 25 Indira Awas houses, 12 hand pumps and 45 toilets in this Tola. This land used to be in the name of the Ram Janaki temple whose sewait Rambahadur Gupta is now no more. The poor-mahadalits have about 30 bighas of the temple land. In the new survey this land has been entered in the name of Sri Sri 108 Ram Janaki Mahadev. The grandson of Rambahadur Gupta’s brother Shyam Bahadur Gupta has staked a false claim to this land. These feudal forces used money and muscle power to pressurize the Biraul block officials to displace the poor-mahadalits and give them possession. The matter went up to the High Court but the mahadalits, being unorganized, could not put up their case effectively. The HC ruled in favour of the feudal forces, proving the extent to which our courts are anti-poor.
On 9 July the administration resorted to force and started forcible eviction of the mahadalits, during which Jagmaya Devi was killed and 4 people were injured. However, the insensitive block officials maintained that Jagmaya Devi was not killed by police oppression but died of an illness. The administration did not even conduct a post-mortem on Jagmaya Devi.
The CPI(ML) Darbhanga district committee has planned to file an appeal in the High Court in this matter. Protests were held at all block HQs on 17 July 2016 demanding proper compensation and government job for Jagmaya Devi’s kin, a high level enquiry into the attack by the administration on the Tola, land parchas for all poor-mahadalits, along with other demands. The effigy of the Biraul SDO was burnt at the protest.