NEW DELHI: The Dalit upsurge is being given a political shape post Una that will manifest itself at a big rally on Parliament street in New Delhi on September 16. Several Dalit organisations and political leaders emerged from a recent brainstorming with the Dalit Swabhiman Sangharsh Manch with the grandson of B.R. Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar taking the lead.

“All are welcome to join, this is a Manch for everyone opposed to the ideology of the RSS and committed to rights and justice,” Ambedkar told The Citizen. He expects the Bahujan Samaj party leader Mayawati to join the rally, by sending workers and leaders to attend. The Republican Party of India leader had jparticipated at the Dalit Mahasammelan at Una recently and was hopeful that the Manch would become a focal point for all the currently scattered organisations.

As a first a series of seven big meetings against the government have been announced for Gujarat, the first held in Rajkot. These will; be held every two months to keep the pressure on the government. And in what will be a mix of local and national issues the demands will vary. For instance one of these, in a list that is still being finalised, would be to demand the Gujarat government give a date for opening 12 temples in the state to Dalit entry, “so that we can join in large numbers on those dates.”

He said that the effort was to consolidate and unify the movement and that is why the Manch had been formed with political support. Others who have joined the new platform include the Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch, Akhil Bharatiya Khet Mazdoor Union, National Campaign Council for Protection of Dalit Rights, and the Bharatiya Khet Mazdoor Union.

Ambedkar said that the focus will remain on highlighting the atrocities against the Dalits. He said that these were of two categories, one that took place in the villages as part of the system without being organised by political groups; and the other like the stripping and flogging of Dalit youth in Una by the cow vigilantes that pointed towards an orchestrated plan and agenda.

“The RSS is behind all this”, Ambedkar said. This organised crime against the Dalits is one issue he said. And the other is cultural nationalism. “We will challenge them on this, as there is nothing like cultural nationalism”, Ambedkar said. The Manch has taken a decision that all Dalit leaders and organisations with the BJP led government at the centre, and in the states, will not be invited to join the Manch or be allowed to speak at any of its meetings.

Asked about the decision of Muslims to come out in support of the Dalits that has been evident in the march to Una in Gujarat, Ambedkar said that this was indeed significant. “The Muslims have been now left entirely on their own, no one is even asking about them,” he pointed out. So when the Dalits said “enough is enough, no more” this resonated with the Muslims who are now coming out to join forces, he said. Asked if this was temporary or long term, he was categorical, “this is long term, it will develop into a longer unity.”

Prakash Ambedkar is probably the only recognised Dalit leader who was not coopted by the BJP in 2014 when it came to power. He agreed he was the ‘last man standing’ in one sense, reiterating that those who had moved on were not welcome on the Manch. Ministers Ramdas Athawale and Udit Raj are clearly straining at the leash, worried about the Dalit upsurge against the government and the BJP. After a long period of silence both have been trying to speak out, and landing themselves into further controversy. Udit Raj was perceived as advocating beef when he tweeted that Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt had done so well because he ate beef. Athawale followed by stating that there should not be a complete ban on beef. However, being one man leaders they are now out of the Dalit loop with Una placing them all the defensive.

(Cover file picture of Prakash Ambedkar addressing a Dalit meeting in Maharasthra)