Thousands of people from 166 Dalit, Left and progressive organisations, as well as writers and cultural figures were part of the Swabhimani Sangharsha Jatha from Bengaluru to Udupi between October 4 and October 9. The theme of the Jatha Chalo Udupi was Food of our choice, land is our right. This theme articulated the mounting protest against using the cultural politics of the “sacred cow” to assault Dalits, minorities, Adivasis, women and all the oppressed sections of the citizenry. At the same time, it emphasized the demand for five acres of land to every Dalit family.
The Pride March began on October 4 from Freedom Park in Bangalore and went on to Nelamangala, Kunigal, Channarayapatna, Hole Narasipura, Hassan, Beluru, Chickmagalore, and Koppa on October 8 for a convention. It ended in Udupi on October 9 with a huge rally. Public meetings were held all along the Jatha route, and they included, in particular, college students.
Dalit Hakkugala Samiti, All India Kisan Sabha, CITU, AIAWU, AIDWA, SFI and DYFI have been in the forefront against the atrocities in Kambalapalle, against Pankthi Bedha, Made Made Snana and other discriminatory practices in Udupi Temple and atrocities in Mysore, Mandya and elsewhere. These Struggles had ensured temple entry for Dalits in Sigaranahalli in Hassan District braving brutal attacks by reactionary forces and police as well as arrests. Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha(affiliated to AIKS) and AIAWU have been in forefront of Struggles for land rights of landless, Bagair Hukum cultivators, house-sites and forest rights. Broad Issue-Based Unity has been built with Dalit groups and other Farmers' groups and Trade Unions. On 9th October, thousands of people assembled in Udupi and were addressed by Jignesh Mevani and others.
Indian Cultural Forum team met with Huchangi Prasad, who was in Udupi. Here are some of the major points he spoke of:
As in Una, the foremost demand was for five acres of land to be distributed to all Dalit families. Jignesh Mewani, who became the face of Dalit assertion in Gujarat, reiterated this central point in Udupi as well.
Beef and Atrocities
One of the aims of the Pride March was to insist on the right of choice of food – beef or otherwise. Food is an individual choice in a country like India, and every citizen, whether Dalit or from the minority or backward communities should be confident of their right to live as they choose, as long as no law is being violated.
The murder of Praveen Pujari by a gang, allegedly for illegal transport of cows, was fresh in everyone’s minds. On October 8, members of the Chalo Udupi team met Baby, Praveen’s mother. She was clear about who was to blame for her son’s death: Hindutvawadis. "Even after my son told the attackers that the cows did not belong to him and that he had only rented the vehicle, and asked them to check with the police if they wanted proof, the gang of inhuman rowdies indiscriminately attacked my son. It appears that they consider the life of a cow more important than that of a human being.”
The participants of the jatha made it clear, from the earliest meetings of the march, that the right-wing agenda divides the country so that large sections of the people continue to be marginalised. Their demand is that the rights of every citizen in this country must be protected. To this end, the plan is that every progressive group exert pressure on the state and central governments to prevent repeated atrocities on the country's own citizens; demolish, in practice, caste discrimination; and reach out to people to counter the superstitions and divisive propaganda of right-wing organisations. Most of all, awareness and education are critical to ensure that the youth of the dalit and backward communities, and the oppressed classes in general, are not used by the Sangh Parivar. The collective plan is to maintain the momentum of the Pride March by organising district level meetings and conventions in all 30 districts of Karnataka over the next few months. The movement carries important messages on cultural politics for the people; and these, the participants of Udupi Chalo feel, will build the confidence so necessary to keep up their resistance.
In the last one year, we have seen a different face of Dalit movement, which is often neglected, in the mainstream media. This side of the movement is free from the narrow understandings of the identity politics. Here we see people fighting for their rights, their dignity, their just place in the society; their fight goes beyond the calculative cunningness of electoral politics. This fight seeks and has found allies in the struggles of women, minorities, and labours.