Scavenging jab at Modi

Jignesh Mevani, the 35-year-old poster boy of the Dalit mobilisation in Gujarat, today borrowed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's own words to invite him to "experience the spirituality in scavenging".

By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 21.08.16
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New Delhi, Aug. 20: Jignesh Mevani, the 35-year-old poster boy of the Dalit mobilisation in Gujarat, today borrowed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's own words to invite him to "experience the spirituality in scavenging".

In the capital as part of efforts to build solidarity for the movement outside Gujarat, Jignesh announced at a news conference: "We (Dalits) are not going to clean up people's dirt any more. Modiji, now you are welcome to experience the spirituality that is supposed to be there in scavenging."

The Dalit activist was referring to Karmayog, a collection of Modi's speeches brought out in 2007 by a Gujarat PSU, in which the then chief minister was quoted as saying that scavenging was an "experience in spirituality" for the Valmikis (a sub-caste of Dalits).

According to the book, Modi said: "I do not believe that they have been doing this job just to sustain their livelihood.... At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their (Valmikis') duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods; that they have to do this job bestowed upon them by Gods; and that this job of cleaning up should continue as an internal spiritual activity for centuries....

"It is impossible to believe that their ancestors did not have the choice of adopting any other work or business."

Quoting Modi the chief minister back to Modi the Prime Minister, Jignesh said: "As chief minister, you used to say that I am a common man. Now a common man has come to you and is seeking time. Give me five minutes."

With the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti's efforts at Dalit mobilisation succeeding in Gujarat and managing to draw other sections of society, particularly the Muslims, Jignesh plans to visit other states in the next two weeks to gather support for the proposed "rail roko" from September 15.

On Monday, the Dalit samiti had given a call for a "rail roko" in Gujarat if the state did not give in to their demand for five acres to each landless family by September 15.

"We are not being unreasonable. This has been provided for in our revenue laws since the 1960s but it has been implemented only on paper. We are not saying that the land should be given to all landless by September 15; all we are saying is begin the process."

On whether the state had so much land to redistribute, Jignesh said there was government waste land in every village. Also, the sub-plans for SC/STs had a provision by which the government could buy land to redistribute among the landless. "But in Gujarat, land is given to Adani, Ambani and Essar."

On the Prime Minister's statement that gau rakshaks should shoot him before attacking Dalits, Jignesh claimed Modi's supporters and Sangh parivar members had terrorised Dalits on Independence Day on their way back from an event in Una.

Jignesh announced he was quitting the Aam Aadmi Party because detractors were using his ties to the party to malign the Dalit samiti and its activities.

"The AAP expressed solidarity with us but did not try to take advantage of our mobilisation. I do not want my political links to affect the movement, so I am leaving the party."

He did not rule out electoral politics in the future though, for now, that is not his priority. "We are a political movement and have political demands. But, right now, the effort is to maintain the momentum and link up with progressive forces across the country."

Jignesh is scheduled to address students at JNU this evening, and a public meeting at Gandhi Peace Foundation and Delhi University tomorrow.