As representatives of Dalit and South Asian organisations in the UK we send warmest solidarity greetings to our Dalit brothers and sisters in struggle in India as they march from Ahmedabad to Una in the ‘Azaadi Kooch’ (Freedom March), reaching on Independence Day to hoist the Indian flag at the place of the Una atrocity.
As India enters its 70th year of independence, the country is in turmoil as never before. The Hindu supremacist BJP government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has been in power since May 2014, together with the numerous Hindutva killer gangs who stand behind it, has unleashed an increasingly violent reign of terror and repression on Dalits, Muslims and other minorities.
Dominant castes, who in rural India are the landowners, perpetrate the most heinous crimes of rape, arson, and murder of Dalits, specifically targeting women and children. Dalit women are forced to parade naked sometimes for the most minor of disagreements, or else even for ‘not showing respect’. There is also a propensity by the ruling elites to dismiss atrocities as ‘law and order’ issues. Studies show, however, that Dalits are specifically targeted because of the resentment felt by upper-castes, particularly when Dalits try to rise above the down-trodden status ascribed to them, or when they try to assert their human rights.
This appalling state of affairs has got far worse in the last two years, deteriorating first during Modi’s election campaign in 2013, and then deteriorating, even more acutely, since he has come to power in 2014. The primary reason for this is the BJP’s polarising upper-caste Hindu supremacist ideology
As official figures show there has been a 44 percent increase in violence against Dalits in 2014 as compared to 2010, with 30 percent of the 47,064 crimes in 2014 committed in four BJP-ruled states — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.
In the last few months ‘Gau Rakshaks’ or Cow protection vigilantes have become the latest face of Hindutva’s killer gangs. They roam the countryside attacking and killing Muslims and Dalits whom they accuse of cow slaughter, or of consuming or intending to consume beef.
Gujarat has been seen as a ‘laboratory’ by the Hindu right since the genocidal attacks on Muslims in 2002 and on 11 July this year, in Una, Gujarat, the Cow goons launched a horrific attack on four Dalit men, tying them to a car and beating them brutally with sticks and iron pipes. They accused them of cow slaughter, although in reality, they were skinning a dead cow as part of their work – since this unpleasant task, like that of getting rid of dead animals carcasses, is still regarded as work suitable only and exclusively for Dalits. They filmed the attack (which took place with the collusion of the Gujarat police) and circulated it widely on social media. The aim was clearly to cause intense humiliation and to intimidate the community.
As we now know the video of the attack, which went viral, had a very different effect. It acted as a spark which ignited the already simmering anger and resistance of Dalits in Gujarat and other parts of India giving rise to a massive Dalit uprising. Dalits refused to clear cow carcasses, and they were left rotting all over towns in Gujarat. Already the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Anandiben Patel, has been forced to resign. The movement has continued to grow and is spreading all over India. Muslim organisations have joined Dalits in solidarity and so have Left and progressive organisations.
We will protest in solidarity with the Dalit uprising in India – for freedom, dignity and an end to exploitation at 2pm – 4pm, Saturday 20 August 2016, Indian High Commission, The Aldwych, London WC2B 4NA
We will urge the Indian Government to meet the demands of the movement:
- Arrest and charge all those who participated in the attack on the Dalits in Una under the Prevention of Anti-Social Activity Act (PASA).
- Withdraw cases filed against Dalits during recent protests and launch an immediate investigation into the 2012 police firing in Thangadh, Gujarat in which 3 Dalits were killed.
- Immediately ban the murderous Gau Raksha Samitis (Cow Protection Vigilante Groups)
- Impose exemplary punishment to perpetrators of caste violence with national media coverage to act as a deterrent.
- Set up Special Courts for offences under the Atrocities Act, as required by the law.
- Make the jobs of Safai Kamdars, or sanitation workers, (all exclusively Dalits) secure, by making them permanent posts paid according to the regulations of the 6th Pay Commission.
- Allocate Five Acre Plots of land to Dalits forthwith as is required under Section 3(1)(f) of the Atrocities Act.
- Immediately enact a Reservation Act in Gujarat (All reservations/affirmative actions in Gujarat are currently at the discretion of the Executive and are initiated or effected only through a government resolution).
- Provide housing units to Dalits in urban areas because they continue to be socially boycotted, discriminated against and exploited socially, economically and sexually in villages.
- Use budgetary allocations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SCs/STs) exclusively for these sections and not divert them elsewhereThe Gujarat Government must apologise publicly to Dalits for withdrawing and pulping the book on Dr Babsaheb Ambedkar which described his radical thoughts on Hindusim and the 22 point oath he took to convert to Buddhism in 1956.
South Asia Solidarity Group
Ambedkar International Mission, London
Dr Ambedkar Buddhist Action Committee Birmingham
Dr Ambedkar Buddhist Organisation
Central Valmik Sabha UK
Shri Guru Ravidass Cultural Association, Birmingham
Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha , Manor Park, London
Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha, Wolverhampton
Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee Great Britain
Voice of Dalit International UK
International Asian Christian Front
South Asian Alliance