ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fire of Una Ignites Saffron Udupi

For the first time in a long time Dalits have mobilised enmasse for issues concerning their livelihoods. The uprising in Una has shaken the political establishment in Gujarat and has spread to other parts of India as well, including saffronised Udupi in Karnataka.

The Dalit struggle in Gujarat sparked off by the public flogging of a Dalit family by the gau rakshaks has caught the imagination of the Dalits all over the country. By no means is it the first incident of its kind. As for tormenting the Dalits on account of the suspicion of cow killing, a far more horrific incident had taken place on 15 October 2002, the Dussehra day, near Jhajjar in Haryana. A Hindutva mob caught five Dalits who were carrying animal hides to Karnal, near the Duleena police chowki, lynched them, gouged their eyes out, mutilated their bodies and set them on fire. There were more than 47,000 atrocities that were officially recorded in the country the previous year, which yields an average of more than two Dalits murdered and five Dalit women raped every day. The difference the Una protest made was to raise the issue of land which would liberate the Dalits from their traditional humiliating vocations like scavenging and dealing with dead cattle. Another distinction was that it happened in Gujarat which was being flaunted as the model of development created by Narendra Modi over the years. It is this propaganda that hugely contributed to his image as the development man, catapulting him to the top post. Una squarely nailed this lie for the world to see.

The first Una-inspired Dalit agitation erupted somewhat expectedly in Karnataka. It all began with the discussions of Una on social media that led to an impromptu meeting being called at ­Bengaluru, to which over 300 youth turned up. They decided to enact Chalo Una by taking a march from Bengaluru to Udupi, one of the dens of the Hindutva forces, where in August 2016 one Praveen Poojary, belonging to a backward caste, was beaten to death by 18 Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal activists camouflaged under the banner of Hindu Jagarana Vedike after they found him transporting two cows in a vehicle. Interestingly, 29-year-old Poojary was himself a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member and pleaded with them that he was just transporting the calves for his friend. It, of course, did not matter as he became the victim of the obnoxious cow vigilantism of the Sangh Parivar.

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