Citizens for Justice and Peace

Dalits in the Hindu Rashtra, A Close Look at the Gujarat Model

20, Jul 2016 | Teesta Setalvad

For years now, we have been fed with stories, lies and half-truths about the Gujarat Model. We should not ever forget that this model began to be ‘sold’ and ‘marketed’ post 2007, in the wake of India’s worst ever genocidal pogrom against Muslims, in 2002. It is not that under other governments and political parties, deep rooted anti-minority prejudice was not allowed to fester and infiltrate within positions and institutions of power. Ahmedabad 1969, Bhiwandi-Bombay 1970 and 1984, Nellie 1983, Hashimpura 1987, Bhagalpur 1989 are brute historic testimonies to this all pervasive institutional prejudice. But never before until 2002 Gujarat, not even with Sikhs in Delhi in 1984, had utter and complete state complicity  been the vehicle of a massacre. The report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and now the ongoing Zakia Jafri case—that will hopefully resume hearing today, on July 20, are testimony to this.

In 2015 the Gujarat Model stood exposed when a young, raw leader of the state’s otherwise politically powerful Patels, Hardik Patel, led a protest that showcased the hollowness of the claims. Jobs are hard to come by in any case over past years under neo liberal India, but Gujarat epitomizes ‘jobless’ growth. A few select individuals and corporate houses amass disproportionately high assets; they also fund and feed their select man and men in the political class, but even communities like the Patels who are among the OBCs in Gujarat, bear the heat and anger of frustration, unemployment, joblessness. Is this the model the country wants or needs? Is this the development that Uttar Pradesh, or Punjab, or even Gujarat that go to the polls next year want?

Over the past week, Gujarat has been burning. Literally. It began with a horrific incident at Unha, Saurashtra. Four Dalit youths who skin dead animals for a living were thrashed with iron rods, chained to a car and dragged to a police station, their ordeal captured on video by their assaulters who accused them of slaughtering a cow. The victims were targeted assaulters from the Darbar caste that accused them of killing a cow for the purpose of selling beef when all that the Dalit youths had done was skin a cow that was already dead.  Dalits from Una town in Saurashtra owned a Bone Mill and had been skinning animals for that purpose. While slaughtering cows and selling or consuming beef is banned in the state, skinning of dead animals is not illegal.

This incident comes fast on the heels of another gruesome attack on Dalits about a week ago: Rama Singrakhiya, a Dalit, was allegedly hacked to death by a dominant caste mob in Sodhana village of Porbandar district. Leading Dalit campaigner and senior advocate Valjibhai Patel told Sabrangindia that there had been a series of such attacks in past months and yet no words of sharp condemnation from the state’s political leadership.

In the latest attack on July 12, reportedly, a vigilante group pounced on the four, beat them up with iron rods and sticks and chained them to their car before leaving them at Una police station. The car had the nameplate of a Shiv Sena member.

The accused also filmed the assault. The video taken by the assaulters themselves has since gone viral on social media. Though a large crowd had gathered at the place, no one seemed to forward to rescue the Dalits. A video is said to have gone viral on the social media.

Since yesterday protests have been raging all over the state, newspapers have  covered them partially (though not in the ‘national’ editions) and yet television anchors –already exposed for their irresponsible role in Kashmir – have been silent. This is not a national but a commercial media. Now we have confessions reported by The Indian Express and Catch news that tell an even more sinister tale. The father of one of the nine people arrested in Una, Gujarat, for the assault on Dalits they accused of cow slaughter, alleged on Tuesday that his son, a Muslim, had been forced by the others to beat up the Dalit men to prove Muslims are just as anti-beef as gau rakshaks.

The boy’s father reportedly said: “I had sent my son out to buy bananas from a shop near the bus station. But as he reached there, Pramodgiri Goswami and others came there in their car and pulled the four Dalits out of the vehicle and tied them to the car. My son stopped there out of curiosity. While he was watching from a distance, others in the gau rakshak group asked him to take a turn to beat up the Dalits and thereby show that Muslims also stood against cow slaughter… Pramodgiri thrust a strip in his hands and exhorted him to beat up the Dalits.”

In a nutshell, this innocent bystander was compelled by a set of hoodlums—out to protect the cow mother –to beat and thrash Dalits. How cynical can you get? The boy’s father said he had evidence on video to prove his claim. The boy is 17 years old, says The Indian Express. He was arrested on Monday night and sent to Rajkot’s Observation Home for Boys. The man said: “I admit that he has beaten up the Dalit brothers and, therefore, he is guilty. But he was made to be part of the conspiracy without him knowing what it would mean.”

Kiritkunar Joshi, deputy superintendent of police (SC, ST Cell), said: “The teenager is a friend of another accused named Deepak Shiyal. The boy had gone to Mota Samadhiyala riding pillion on Shiyal’s motorbike. But, as of now, there is no evidence that the boy beat up the Dalits in Mota Samadhiyala also.”

Quick to come to the rescue of the foot soldiers, Mohan Bhagwat of the RSS and even Gujarat’s Vishwa Hindu Parishad has condemned this ugly beating of Dalits. Why? As we saw in 2002, it is Dalits who have been used and abused to carry out the filthy designs of communal forces, against the state’s Muslims. They are the foot soldiers of the Hindu Rashtra. Except in the districts of Mehsana, Anand, Dahod and Panchmahals where many Patels were among the accused, in the urban areas it is Dalits (including Chharas) who were used as mobs for violent ends.

But what is truly conspiratorial and sinister about the fallout now, sinister designs to turn this issue into Muslim-bashing once again, that even despite agitations all over the state, despite the fact that traffic was stopped on highways, buses broken down, tyres burned, three truckloads of cow carcasses dumped at the Surendranagar Collectorate, carcarsses of cows dumped in other government offices; des[ite the fact that Mayawati, leader of the Bahujan Samaj party raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha and the upper house of Parliament was adjourned yesterday; despite the fact that Gujarati television channels appealed to people for peace; Nine persons were arrested in what Dalits are terming as part of the ‘Cow Taliban’ the commercial television media is utterly silent. Why?

It is time to loudly acknowledge that this television commercial media does not represent democratic concerns or the Indian people and in fact, as we have recently seen –in its coverage of the protests and subsequent repression in the Kashmir valley– is actually beating to pre-determined political and corporate drums. This is a matter of national shame.

Credit: Sabrangindia


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