NEW DELHI: It was unprecedented. Not just for Gujarat but for the rest of India as thousands of Dalits pledged to stop collecting dead carcasses across the state in what many observers described as a ‘revolution’. They also responded positively to the call not to clean a gutters under the state administration.

In a rally that did not make it to the Delhi newspapers, except for the Indian Express that is following the ethics of independent journalism, the Dalits came together in the thousands to express solidarity with the victims flogged by Gau Rakshak men in Una and to stand up for their own rights.

Also unprecedented was that this huge rally came together on the call given by a host of activists and organisations, with the political spectrum reduced to the level of bystanders. It served as a notice to the Gujarat government that was unable to stop the rally for fear of consequences, that the oppression increasing steadily over the years will not be tolerated by the Dalits any longer.

Dalit leader Jignesh Mewani who was one of the many behind the success of the Maha Sammelan was excited over the response. “It is unprecedented” he told The Citizen pointing out that even if some and not all who had gathered for the meet implemented the pledge not to collect dead carcasses, this would be a big step forward. Judging from the response at the rally, most will follow the pledge as the attack on the four young men by the vigilantes has raised questions of not just security, but dignity.

Mewani said that the plan was now to take this decision, and other demands to the villages and a padyatra is being organised from Ahmedabad to Una. Apsrt from local Dalits who will keep joining the yatra, Dalit organisations, leaders and intellectuals from other parts of India will be invited to participate as well.

The Gujarat government has been arresting young Dalits, particularly several from Una who were the first to protest against the public flogging of their colleagues. The Maha Sammelan demanded their release, and registered its strong protest at the state governments discriminatory policies.

Even though sections of the so called ‘national’ Delhi media chose to play the role of the ostrich and virtually black out the huge rally from its front pages, the political reverberations are being felt across. In Gujarat the Dalits are 7% but the fears within the government arises from the fact that one, it tends to move as a en bloc vote and two, if added to the 17% of the disaffected Patel community whose leader Hardik Patel is in “exile” in Rajasthan at the moment, it could have an adverse impact on the BJP in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.

The BJP is also feeling the pressure in Uttar Pradesh where despite PM Modi’s strong assertions about BR Ambedkar the vote appears to be registering a shift. In Agra a much publicised yatra by the BJP failed to take off when of the one third population of Dalits in the city, not even 400 turned up. The Dhamma Chetna Yatra was welcomed in Agra by the BJP President Keshav Prasad Maurya and yet the party was struggling to fill the hall.

Even as Maurya insisted that the Dalits can be protected only by the BJP, party MLA Raja Singh justified the attack on the Daits in Una on video. He said that while there were many Dalit brothers who spent their lives protecting the cow, there were others like those in Una who deserved the beating they got.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite demands by Opposition parties in Parliament, has kept complete silence on the issue. The BJP is widely perceived to be on the backfoot on this issue , with Dalit MPs in the party being compelled to urge the leadership to take immediate measures assuring Dalits of their security and safety.

The Gujarat stir,Opposition leaders said, is serving as a catalyst for Dalit opinion across India. It is in one sense, joining the dots of various incidents of violence against Dalits, starting with the suicide of scholar Rohith Vemula in the Hyderabad Central University that kicked up a storm both in and outside Parliament.