Protests against atrocities on Dalits in Gujarat reached a flashpoint mid-July this year, however, the state has had a long history of discrimination against Dalits. For example, an article on the website of Navsarjan, points out that in 1998, Gujarat was second on the list of states in which incidents of crimes against scheduled castes were exceptionally high. The report adds: "A recent study conducted by Navsarjan demonstrated that of all of the atrocity cases that occurred across four districts in Gujarat, 36.6% were not registered under the Atrocity Act and that of the cases where the Act was applied, 84.4% were registered under the wrong provisions, thus concealing the intensity of the violence in the cases."
Revealing how deep these fissures run in the state, The Indian Express reports how in one Gujarat village with high literacy rates, separate garbas are organised for Dalits and upper caste residents. The report also points out that the Dagavadiya village of Vijapur taluka has a high literacy rate -- 99 percent -- yet, it thrives on discrimination.
High literacy, however, has not translated into employment, especially for the Dalits in the village. "During the Navratri festival there are three garbas — one organised by the upper castes and OBCs, and two by Dalits," the report states.
The village had witnessed skirmishes between Dalits and upper caste Chaudharys in the past. The 35 Chamar families living in the village sparred with the upper caste people but had to eventually agree on a settlement as they couldn't afford to hire vehicles and go to the Mehsana court repeatedly to legally resolve the dispute.
A revenue officer The Indian Express spoke to, said, "The issue was mainly about Dalits not getting grocery from the store, the flour mills not giving them flour and a ban on entry into temples. I had gone there with the police and the social welfare department officials. We got the Senmas, the Chaudharys and the Chamars together to go to the Mahadev and Kali mata temples. Everything has been fine since then."
The Dalit Asmita Yatra in Gujarat is now on its final leg. The 400-kilometre march begun at Ahmedabad on 4 August and will culminate at Una on 14 August. It was flagged off to protest the atrocities inflicted by upper castes on Dalits in Gujarat over the years and was sparked by the incident of cow vigilantes stripping and beating seven Dalit men up in Una.