A Dalit youth who had consumed poison to protest the flogging of men from the community in Una early last month, died on Sunday, fuelling the anger of thousands of others who have vowed not to skin or pick up dead animals unless the atrocities by self-styled cow protectors or 'gau rakshaks' stop.
"In model Gujarat, over 15,500 cases of atrocities were lodged and Dalits kicked out from 55 villages. Why is PM Narendra Modi silent on these atrocities. Why has he not come to share our pain," Jignesh Mevani, convener of the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti that organised a massive rally at the Acher ground in Sabarmati area, told the Times of India.
The Dalits pledged to stop the community's centuries-old vocation of disposing of animal carcasses and manual scavenging, the paper reported. Slogans of "jai bheem" rent the air as thousands of Dalits convened to protest the brutal flogging of Dalit men on 11 July by gau rakshaks for skinning a dead cow they accused the members of the community of slaughtering.
The state Dalit leaders said they want to "send a message" to the government and warned that if atrocities on the community does not stop they will "show their strength" in the Assembly polls in Gujarat due in 2017.
Yogesh Hirabhai Solanki, 25, was rushed to Ahmedabad civil hospital at midnight last night from Rajkot after his condition deteriorated but passed away soon after, police said. Solanki had attempted suicide along with two others at Parabari village in Dhoraji taluka of Rajkot on July 19 during the statewide protests against thrashing.
A policeman was killed in Amreli town on July 19 when Dalit protesters pelted stones at a police station.
The leaders also announced a plan to organise a foot march from Sabarmati to Una town from August 5.
Mevani put forward a slew of demands before the State Government and asked his community to take a pledge to stay away from their traditional work of disposing the dead cattle.
"I urge all Dalits to discontinue the work of disposing dead animals. I also want you to take a pledge of discontinuing the work of cleaning sewer lines. We no longer wish to do this work and want Government to allot agriculture land to us, so that we can live a respectable life."
"To give a strong message to the Government, I urge all Dalits to discontinue the work of disposing dead animals. I also want you to take a pledge of discontinuing the work of cleaning sewer lines. We no longer wish to do this work and want Government to allot agriculture land to us, so that we can live a respectable life," said Mevani.
"We want everyone who thrashed Dalits in Una to be arrested under PASA. If they come out on bail, Government must extern them from five districts," he said. PASA is a stringent law dealing with anti-social activities.
Dalit writer Amrut Makwana, who returned his state government award in protest against the Una incident, was felicitated at the Mahasammelan.
Other demands include withdrawal of cases filed against Dalits during recent protests, speedy probe in the 2012 Thangadh police firing (in which 3 Dalits were killed), allotment of five acres of land for community members who want to discontinue their traditional work and martial arts training to SC members for self defence.
Meanwhile, a Dalit MP of BJP has cautioned the party that the recent spate of attacks on the community members "will have a bearing" on the Assembly polls scheduled for 2017 and said he would urge Prime Minister Modi to ensure that rule of law prevails in the country.
"Any social or political incident (like these) has a bearing and will have bearing (on the election)," BJP MP Udit Raj said. Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Goa, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Himachal Pradesh are going to polls next year.
(With inputs from PTI)