Gujarat Assembly Election 2017: Miffed with BJP after Una flogging incident, Dalits inch towards Congress

Vasram Sarvaiya of Mota Samadhiyala village in Una still shudders when he thinks about what had happened over a year ago. That day, 11 July, 2016 proved to be the darkest day of his entire life.

Vasram, who belongs to the Dalit community, received a call at 7 am that a lion had killed a cow. Along with his three brothers, Vasram reached the spot and started removing the dead cow's skin. Later, about 40-50 cow vigilantes came and started thrashing them. Regarding the incident, he said, "all his brothers were taken about 25 kilometres from the village and brutally beaten up."

Their condition was so bad that they had to be admitted to Una civil hospital and later, they were taken to Rajkot for better treatment. As soon as the incident was taken up by news channels, the cow vigilantes were arrested. Their case is presently underway. Nine of the gau rakshaks are still in jail but the rest are out on bail.

Victimised Dalits of Una are upset

The unhappiness and pain of Vasram, who was a victim in the incident, is apparent. While talking to Firstpost, he said, "we have not got justice till now."

His resentment is also with those political leaders who came to the village after the unfortunate incident and gave assurances. He said, "Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal came to the village to meet us following the incident. After the Opposition starting creating pressure, then Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel also made a visit. Despite these visits, nothing changed."

Vasram complains that Anandiben assured him land and employment but, nothing has happened till now.

 Gujarat Assembly Election 2017: Miffed with BJP after Una flogging incident, Dalits inch towards Congress

About 40-50 cow vigilantes thrashed Vasram and his brothers. Image procured by the author.

Forced to go out in search of employment

The Sarvaiya family is forced to go to other places to seek employment. Ramesh, Vasram's younger brother, was also a victim in the incident and at present, he is learning sewing in Ahmedabad. We sent him to the city because he could not find any work in the village, Vasram said.

Vasram's other two brothers, Ashok and Bechar, are forced to work with their father in the field to earn their livelihood.

His father Balu Sarvaiya said, "even Rahul Gandhi came here and vowed to bring us justice. However, nothing of the sort has happened yet." They think they never got justice under the BJP government. Atrocities on Dalits happened at a number of places but, no action has ever been taken against the perpetrators.

The Dalit community feels injustice has been done to them and since the government never bothered to listen to them, they are determined to make sure that they are heard this time.

Govind Sarvaiya, who lives in the same village, said, "the Dalits of Una have stood with the BJP for last 15 years but we feel injustice has been done to us."

The resentment within the Dalit community against the BJP was apparent and they seem to be supporting the Congress this time.

Hasmukh Sarvaiya told Firstpost, "we will vote for the Congress this time." Sana Sarvaiya also said, "we will vote for change this time."

The total population of the village is about 3,000 and there are 1,200 eligible voters.

That incident about a year ago has changed everything within the Dalit community. They said that if the promises made by the government to them are not fulfilled, they will organise protests.

The Dalit community says that the promises made by the government were never fulfilled. Image procured by the author.

The Dalit community says that the promises made by the government were never fulfilled. Image procured by the author.

Jignesh Mevani is an icon for Una Dalits

Jignesh Mevani, who emerged after the incident, is considered a hero among the Dalits here. They are talking about organising protests for their rights and justice. The Dalits only form about eight percent of the voters in Gujarat, while they make up 16 percent in the country. They are not much influential in the poll-bound state.

The Dalit factor has emerged in this year's Assembly election primarily because of the Dalit movement after the Una incident. Under the leadership of Mevani, the Dalits have come closer to the Congress.

The Sangh has repeatedly tried to sway the Dalits towards the BJP but, they still stand with the Congress. Dalit icons like Mevani are raising questions about the atrocities on the community.

Will the Dalits support BJP in the name of development?

Dalits are now more educated and they want to connect to the society to move forward. They are changing and thinking differently. Jayesh Davera told Firstpost, "Narendra Modi is doing a better work. Every sector in Gujarat and the country, including education, has progressed. He gave us the bullet train. His relations with other countries and also better. We will vote for development."

Through the Una incident and Mevani, the Congress is trying to counter the BJP in this election.

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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2017 18:59:22 IST