Dalit people in Gujarat will launch a rail blockade in a month if the state government doesn’t accept their demands that include five acres of land for every member of the community, a leader of the movement said on Monday.
The comments came at a gathering of thousands of people in Gujarat’s Una town after a 350-kilometre march undertaken to protest the flogging of four Dalit men by alleged cow-protection vigilantes.
“We demand a discussion on land allotment for Dalits in the Gujarat assembly on August 22-23,” said lawyer-turned-activist Jignesh Mewani to thunderous applause.
“If Hardik Patel can go to jail for seven months, I will go for 27. The agitation will only intensify,” he added, referring to violent protests for quotas last year by influential Patidars in Gujarat. The leader of the protests, Hardik Patel, is currently out on bail after being jailed on sedition charges.
The meeting in Una was also attended by Radhika Vemula, the mother of PhD student Rohith Vemula, whose suicide in January at the University of Hyderabad sparked a nationwide debate on caste discrimination. “India belongs to all, not one caste or religion,” she said.
The protest gathering at Una is the culmination of a 10-day march that saw people join from all corners of India to mark their protest against rising atrocities on Dalits. The state-wide demonstrations have also shaken the BJP government and apparently forced out former chief minister Anandiben Patel.
“Congratulations to Dalits of Gujarat for forcing Anandiben to resign as CM,” Radhika Vemula said.