August 8th, 2016
Dalits on a march
The town of Una in Gir Somnath district of Gujarat has become an epicentre of Dalit movement after an incident of brutal thrashing of four Dalit men by “gaurakshaks” (Cow-protection enforcers) for skinning a dead cow, which was reported last month. One of the victims also succumbed to his injuries. Several incidents of Dalits attempting suicides were also reported in state following the Una incident. In the wake of the recent violence against the community reported from Gujarat, thousands of Dalits gathered on Friday and began a 10-day protest march from Ahmedabad to Una.The 350-km walk has been planned to motivate the community to voice their thoughts against the atrocities against the Dalits. It is a march against those members of upper caste, who are practising discrimination as well against the state government.
The foot march will end on August 15 in Una where thousands of Dalits will converge to observe ‘independence’. The Dalits have pledged that they will stop skinning animals or cleaning manholes. They will now keep on demanding alternative livelihood options from the government. Other demands they have is reservation for Dalits under the reservation act, allotment of land for Dalit families, strong legal framework to fight atrocities against Dalits, ensuring that people from the community do not work as manual scavengers and implementation of Forest Rights Act.
Dalits in Gujarat
2.3% of Dalit population in India live in Gujarat and significantly, 80% of them are daily labourers or agricultural workers. Nearly half of them don’t have any sort of land ownership.
Atrocities against Dalits are massive in Gujarat. According to a 2010 study by Navsarjan, a non-profit, around 5% of such cases result in acquittal against the national average of 28%.