Angry protests by Dalits across Gujarat singed Narendra Modi’s home town of Vadnagar on Friday when 4,000 Dalits held a demonstration blaming the prime minister and BJP for the brutal thrashing of four scheduled caste men.
Videos of the protest showed many Dalit people shouting, “Hai re Modi...hai-hai re Modi,” – a modification of a traditional slogan used by women during Hindu funeral processions.
“We raised the hai-hai slogan on purpose. It’s a warning to the BJP and the Sangh parivar,” said Shaileshbhai Shankarbhai, a community leader who addressed the protest.
Many of the protesters vowed to never touch cow carcasses and threatened to convert from Hinduism if attacks on Dalits did not stop.
“The dominant castes who own thousands of cattle will come down on their knees if we stop collecting, skinning and disposing dead cows. The big leather companies, which are also owned by forward castes, will feel the pinch,” said Rajesh Parmar, an organiser.
This protest in Vadnagar -- a town in the Mehsana district known for its loyal support of Modi – is one of several such demonstrations across Gujarat that have erupted over the July 11 thrashings in Una by alleged cow protection vigilantes.
Thousands of people from the scheduled caste community have come out in protest against what they call the high-handedness of self-styled cow protectors and governmental apathy.
They have dumped hundreds of cow carcasses outside the houses of prominent politicians and government offices, refusing to carry on with the occupation until given state protection.
“The Hindutva ideology of the attackers is shared by the BJP and Modi. This ideology has ruined Gujarat. Now that they have broken the morale of the Muslims, they are coming after Dalits,” said Shankarbhai.
Dalits also chanted slogans against chief minister Anandiben Patel and the BJP for encouraging goons in the name of cow protection.
The massive statewide protests have pushed the BJP into a corner ahead of assembly polls next year. But the saffron party said while Friday’s protest was the first such event against Modi in his hometown, many of the demonstrators weren’t Dalit.
“Dalits in Vadnagar have always loved its most famous son (Modi). Most of the people in this protest were not Dalits and were hired by those who want to defame Modiji,” said Sunil Mehta, a local BJP councillor.
Asked what proof he had of the protestors not being Dalit, he said, “I will produce the proof soon.”