Gujarat Burns: Dalit Protests Spread, 12 Attempt Suicide,One Dies
NEW DELHI: 12 Dalit youths have attempted suicide in protest against the brutal assault on four Dalit youths by Gau Rakshak vigilantes in Gujarat. Of these one has died.
The Dalits protests in Gujarat that have spread over the last 24 hours to capital Ahmedabad and other parts of the state found an echo in Parliament today with the Opposition on its feet in protest against the attack on the four youths who were stripped, and brutally beaten by the Gau Rakshak men on June 11 in Una village. The young boys, brutally beaten for skinning a dead cow, are in hospital with serious injuries.
In the Lok Sabha where the BJP has a majority, the Speaker ignored the angry opposition that crowded the well of the House raising slogans, and insisted on carrying on with the proceedings. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House, watching quietly. Later in a statement in th House ,Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that the Prime Minister had been very upset and hurt about the incident, and listed out the action being taken against the accused, and compensation paid. He admitted that the Dalits were skinning a dead cow, and that the government was monitoring the medical treatment being given to the victims. He praised the Gujarat government’s efficiency in dealing with the situation, amidst protests from the Opposition.
In the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP does not have a majority, the angry Opposition did not accept the government silence and the House was adjourned shortly after it convened. Opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi and Aam Aadmi Party leader will be visiting the village Una in Gir Somnath district where the Dalits were attacked.
Like the Patel community earlier, the Dalit protestors pelted stones at the police force with the state government completely out of its depth in dealing with the situation. Chief Minister Anandiben who had nothing to say when the four youth were flogged to almost death by the Gau Raksha organisation members, is now speaking of visiting the village, and taking action.
The government approach, as seems evident from the refusal to listen to the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, is clearly to adopt a hard line and not ‘give in’ to the demands at this stage. At least 500 protesters have been arrested from across Gujarat although, fearing a major impact in Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country, the police force has not been allowed unrestrained use of force at this stage at least.
Gujarat is today emerging as the most troubled state in the country, judging from the widespread protests first by the Patel community, and now by the Dalits that are moving across with the speed of wildfire. Reports suggest that at least 12 Dalits have attempted suicide since the family was attacked.State transport buses have been set on fire as Dalit mobs clashed with the police, resulting in injuries to both sides. A head constable was killed.
The protests show no signs of abating. Gujarat towns were shut down, as shops downed their shutters, and the police fanned out in a bid to control the mobs. Congress leader Ahmed Patel tweeted, “Failure of authorities to protect Dalits in Gujarat is absolutely shocking. Is it the Gujarat Model? Independent probe is the need of the hour.”
Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel under instructions from Delhi has been handling the protests strictly as law and order issues, with arrests and the use of force to break the back of the movements. Hardik Patel, the young leader who came on to the scene as the leader of sections of the community, was jailed for nine months before now being released on bail on the condition that he will not stay in Gujarat for the next six months or so.
Patel has moved to a border village in Rajasthan, from where he admitted to the media that he is being contacted by several leaders and will examine the options later. He has been approached by Congress intermediaries--- he said publicist Prashant Kishor contacted him---to campaign in UP. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is in close touch with him and Patel claims to be “very impressed” with the AAP leader.
The foment continues, with the Patel community that were once supporters of the BJP quiet but not accepting. The Dalit outburst now is not just a response to Una, that is the trigger of course, but a reaction to suppression and victimisation according to activists working on humanitarian issues in Gujarat. The young people in particular are restless, and not willing to accept the humiliation and the isolation silently, the sources said. The anger with the state government has been growing for a while, with the silence on continuing atrocities against the Dalits “not acceptable to the youth” according to the activists.
Gujarat, under strong arm rule, appears to now be bursting at the seams. Interestingly, the lead is again being taken by the youth of the communities with the conventional leadership in the Opposition following the protests, not leading the protests. This is a trend being noticed in most protests across the country where the lead is being taken by young faceless people from within, with the organised political parties stepping in after the dam has burst. The Dalits have taken to the streets in Gujarat, as did the Patidars, with the Congress that is the principal opposition party in Gujarat certainly not at the helm of affairs. As Hardik Patel himself has indicated, these new youth leaders being thrown up through protests are taking independent choices. Where all this will lead it is difficult to say, but the old order is fast changing.
It does not make prime time television for obvious reasons, but"I'm like a young person who has come of age," said Mr Patel to NDTV, "every party thinks of me as a prospective partner, (but) I am just looking." Ordered into exile from Gujarat for six months, Mr Patel said he has been invited to Maharashtra ("by Uddhav and Aditya Thackeray, but I won't go there"), Uttar Pradesh ("yes, Prashant Kishor has called me") and Delhi ("I am impressed with Arvind Kejriwal").