"Awaaz Do Hum Ek Hain": Azadi Kooch(Freedom March) in Gujarat With Cops Out in Full Strength
THE CITIZEN BUREAU
AHMEDABAD: Two days, and there was little that the Gujarat government could do to curb the exuberance of the youth and elders --patidars, Muslims, Dalits, hundreds of women---who came together to raise their voice against the atrocities and the lynchings on the first anniversary of Una where Dalit youth had been stripped and flogged by cow vigilantes.
A Convention on July 11, with people standing in the large hall for want of space, was managed and addressed by Jignesh Mevani and volunteers who had poured in from all parts of Gujarat and the country in response to his call. This went into late evening after which the crowds moved to Mehsana for the Freedom March, that will culminate in what promises to be a big public meeting on July 18 at Dhanera in Banaskantha district.
Hundreds started arriving for the March at Mehsana despite the governments decision to revoke an earlier permission.
The police was present in full strength but outnumbered by the participants who kept arriving from different parts of the belt to be part of Azadi Kooch that also carries with it economic demands, the foremost being the allocation of agricultural land to the Dalits. Last year after the video of the flogging incident went viral, Mevani had taken out a ten day march that had Dalits in village after village raising its hands to take the oath that they would say a big No now to manual scavenging. The Una youth had been attacked for removing and skinning the dead carcass of a cow.
The minorities responded to the call in large numbers, joined by patidars and farmers with the Dalits. At Mehsana, the hundreds were addressed by Mevani with Kanhaiya Kumar by his side. Raising slogans of Inquilab Zindabad, latest reports suggest that the organisers had decided to keep the crowds peaceful. In a statement earlier Mevani said, “"The permission was revoked at the last moment as the BJP government realised that the march would create an anti-BJP atmosphere in the state and would dent their prospects in the upcoming Assembly polls. We will not bow down to such tactics and will take out our march.”
The Congress party leaders watching “from a distance” however, agreed that the response from the above sections of society to the March has worried the state government. More so, as the support for this andolan started last year is growing rapidly, with Mevani becoming a state hero of sorts. There are already calls now on the social media for a national party of Dalits, with Mevani and others having little confidence in the mainstream politicians including Bahujan Samaj party’s Mayawati who has no contact with them.