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Dalits threaten to show strength in 2017 Gujarat polls

Ahmedabad: Thousands of Dalits today took out a rally here where community leaders asked them to give up disposing dead cattle to “send a strong message” to the BJP-led Gujarat government ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls and demanded firm steps to curb the atrocities on them.

The Dalit leaders also announced a plan to organise a foot march from here to Una town in Gir-Somnath District, where four Dalits were brutally thrashed by cow vigilantes for skinning a dead cow. They said the march will be organised from August 5 as a mark of protest against the July 11 incident which caused an outrage.

As part of their continuing protests over the assault on their community members, thousands of Dailts attended a mass gathering organised here in Sabarmati area.

Speaking at the gathering, Dalit leader and Convener of the event Jignesh Mevani put forward a slew of demands before the state government and asked his community to take a pledge to stay away from their traditional work of disposing the dead cattle.

“To give a strong message to the government, I urge all Dalits to discontinue the work of disposing dead animals. I also want you to take a pledge of discontinuing the work of cleaning sewer lines. We no longer wish to do this work and want the government to allot agriculture land to us, so that we can live a respectable life,” he said.

“If atrocities on Dalits do not stop, we will show our strength in the 2017 Assembly polls,” Mevani asserted.
Putting forward a series of demands, he asked the government to come to the table for talks, just like it did with the Patel quota leaders.

“We want everyone who thrashed Dalits in Una to be arrested under Prevention of Anti-Social Activity Act (PASA). If they come out on bail, the government must extern them from five districts,” he said.
“We also want government to make all safai kamdars (sanitation workers) permanent in their posts and pay them as per the 6th Pay Commission,” the Dalit leader said.

Other demands voiced by the community leaders included withdrawal of cases filed against Dalits during recent protests, speedy probe in the 2012 Thangadh police firing (in which 3 Dalits were killed), allotment of five acres of land for community members who want to discontinue their traditional work and martial arts training to SC members for self-defence.

“This agitation will continue till the government accepts our demands. If the government can sit with Patels and accept their demands, it should do the same with Dalits and call them for a meeting,” Mevani said. PTI