Jignesh Mevani, a young Dalit activist-turned-politician who won a seat from the Vadgam constituency in Gujarat, has emerged as a political figure in just 16 months. His name was first heard after the Una atrocity, where four Dalits were mercilessly beaten for skinning a dead cow. This is when Jignesh, with a few activist friends, decided to raise their voices against Dalit atrocities.
Jignesh’s name was echoing here and there but it was still quite feeble. But he fought. The most important of his fight was when he claimed the land that was given to seven Dalits in Lavara in the 1970s under the Gujarat land ceiling law. He threatened that a protest would follow if he cannot give back the land to the rightful owner. His voice was heard loud and clear and the lands were allotted to the Dalits. Mevani defeated BJP’s Vijay Chakravarti by a margin of 19,696 votes in the Vadgam constituency.
The Logical Indian spoke to Jignesh Mevani after he won a seat in the Gujarat Assembly elections.
Caste and Creed
He raised his voice against the atrocities on Dalits and advocates for social justice. Also, he has been quite vocal about his dislike for PM Narendra Modi. When asked about his thoughts on BJP’s win in the Assembly elections, he said,
BJP winning the Gujarat election is not something the public should be happy about. In the last 22 years of BJP’s rule in Gujarat, we have seen that not only Dalits but also Asha and Anganwadi workers protested to get their rights. Patidars, who are financially strong, also took to the road. So, this is not something good for us. We have emerged victorious even if it is from a single constituency and we are here to stay. Hum toh batting karne waale hain, Maidan nahi chodege. (I am here to bat. I will not leave the field).
With BJP’s win in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, they now have 19 states under its prowess. When asked how he thinks this divisive politics is going to fare for BJP, he said,
What has happened is that the political games are all communal nowadays. Religion is everything for people. But, to understand what is right and wrong, public needs to be more aware. RSS is BJP’s mother organization. RSS has a cell in Gujarat called the “Saamajik Sangraksha Maanch”. What they do is, wherever there are atrocities reported, they go to those people and either manipulate people more against one another or they completely deny that there is caste discrimination. This politics is not going to go on for long as it is not good for our country. People need to be more inclusive in their approach. They need to unite everyone together and not against each other. If we unite people, BJP would also not be in power.
Even though BJP did not secure enough votes from the villages, BJP still managed to win the elections. When asked about this, he said,
Firstly, we are still sure that EVMs were tampered with. There are some reasons for us to believe so. EVMs are man-made things and can be altered. Yes, the Election Commission might be saying that the EVMs cannot be tampered but that is not believable. Secondly, the complaints that were lodged against EVMs were same. Everybody said that no matter which button they pressed the vote automatically went to BJP. Not one person said that they voted for BJP and then vote went to Congress or any other party. It was always BJP. So, this makes it obvious. Then again, the situation was such in Gujarat, that everybody thought that BJP was losing. But the exit polls, which are by the way illegal, was set up in such a way that the atmosphere for BJP’s win was already created. So, they conspired and made BJP win but not with a huge margin. EVMs should be removed in 2019 and then we will see how good is BJP’s administration.
Atrocities against Dalits
Dalits have been oppressed for long but many people still don’t know the ground reality. Many people voice strong opinions against the reservations given to Dalits. They think it is unfair. Jignesh talked about the ground reality. He talked about how the Dalits are oppressed and why their voices are not heard and how to find a solution to the problem.
If we have to find a solution to a problem, then the first thing that we have to do is accept that there is a problem. We have to accept that untouchability and discrimination exists in our society and then only can we find a solution to the problem. There are 13,000 villages in Gujarat where Dalits reside. Not even once we have seen any of the Dalits fighting an election and contesting from a General seat. I don’t understand how people don’t understand that untouchability still exists amongst people. Every year, there are at least 1100 cases of atrocities against Dalits registered. Out of them, there are cases of rapes and murders. Almost 70% of the cases are of assault where people hands and legs are broken by upper caste people. Till date, people from the Dalit community cannot stand up and talk to others. There are so many restrictions imposed on them. There are certain villages where they are not allowed to keep mustaches, they cannot drink from the same well as others. They are not even allowed to enter temples.
Is there a solution?
I have stated something from the very beginning, that the way to get rid of discrimination is through inter-caste marriage. If we are at power and form a government, then we plan to get rid of all castes and subcastes. Let me give you an example. It is the government that discriminates. How? Because the government is only who makes separate crematoriums for different castes and subcastes. If a person, even after death is discriminated then what do you expect people to think? We plan on making a country free of discrimination and this government is discriminating at every level.
Future plan of action
The next goal that he has is to mobilize people in support of sanitation workers. He wants to fight for their rights so that their future generation doesn’t have to work in the same field.
There is no plan of action as of now. Our main goal is for the empowerment of the oppressed in the society. We want to bring a change in the lives of the sanitation workers. Well, if things went as I wanted it to happen, then I would like if the sanitation workers not opt for such a menial job. Change is not something that comes in a day. We want them to get their deserved rights. Many times it is difficult for them to even get the minimum wage. We want them to educate their children so that the future generations do not have to opt for such a job. Yes, we still don’t have a plan, but we plan to do something soon.