India’s Dalits demand freedom from caste discrimination
Massive protests in Gujarat state after cow vigilantes assault members of Dalit community for skinning a dead bovine.
Una, Gujarat – Thousands of people belonging to the Dalit community, the former untouchables, have staged a massive protest in India’s Gujarat state in response to atrocities against the community.
The 10-day “Dalit Pride March” culminated in Una town in southern Gujarat on August 15 – India’s Independence Day – as Dalits pledged to seek “freedom from atrocities and caste-based discrimination”.
The latest development started as a reaction to an incident last month in Una when members of a Dalit family were publicly assaulted and humiliated by members of a Cow Protection Committee for skinning a dead cattle.
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A group of mostly young people and civil society members formed the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti [Una Dalit committee to fight atrocities] demanding an end to the practice and the right to at least five acres of land, as most Dalits are landless.
Amid the chanting of Jai Bheem – a form of greeting popular among India’s Dalits – people vowed not to dispose of dead cattle – a task that has been traditionally carried out by the lower caste people for centuries.
Members from the Muslim community – which has borne the brunt of the cow vigilantes – also joined Dalits in the 400km-long march that started in the state capital, Ahmedabad.