One of the key architects of the pan-India movement to safeguarding secularism and fighting communalism, Jignesh Mevani, a 36-year-old lawyer-activist who has focused for long on Dalit land rights issues in Gujarat, has called for the defeat of the caste-centric nationalistic Hindutva caucus by efforts of uniting the Dalit community.
â€œIf they are defeated, the fractures in society can be removed. But it is not possible unless Dalits bury their differences and join hands with progressive forces,â€ Mevani who was recently in Chennai on an invitation from the Caste Annihilation Front (Jathi Ozhippu Munnani), told the Frontline in an interview.
Dismissing the Gujarat development model of Narendra Modi as a lethal combination of neoliberalism, Mevani maintained that Gujarat is facing economic bankruptcy today because of the prioritisation of unviable and anti-people projects that benefit only the corporate class. According to him the projected image that Gujarat is shining, is a lie.
â€œIt is a carefully propagated image that Gujarat is shining, Mevani opined, emphasizing that Gujarat is not found among the top 10 developed States despite Modi having been in power there for four terms from 2001. Gujarat has the largest number of malnourished people in the country and one of the most corrupt regimes today, he told the magazine.
He explained how the State of Gujarat had healthy financial stability until 2001, but is now facing a huge financial deficit today, where Gujaratâ€™s public debt, according to reports, stood at Rs. 53,000 crore 2001 but is Rs.1,65,000 crore today.
Linking communal fascism and globalization as entities made for each other, the rights activist said that it is not a coincidence that the Babri Masjid demolition took place soon after the country adopted the neoliberal agenda.
â€œSocial spending on public health and education, employment and infrastructure has come down drastically. Modiâ€™s model of development is to rob the poor and pay the rich. He gave away even fertile land and gauchars [grazing land] to corporate giants at throwaway prices, causing severe stress to the Stateâ€™s economy and ecology, which in turn led to a serious agrarian crisis and forced nearly 1,000 farmers to commit suicide in a decade in the State. Even water meant for farmers was diverted to big industries. Is this a development model?,â€ Mevani queried.
â—© Gujarat is facing economic bankruptcy today
â—© Gujarat is not found among the top 10 developed States
â—© Gujarat has the largest number of malnourished people in the country
â—© Gujaratâ€™s public debt, according to reports, stood at Rs. 53,000 crore 2001 but is 1,65,000 crore today.
â—© Nearly 1,000 farmers to commit suicide in a decade in Gujrat
â—© Gujarat has been a laboratory to test the Hindutva agenda at the micro level
â—© Half of Gujaratis are left without any water
â—© There is a 300 per cent increase in violence against Dalit women in Gujarat today
â—© A total of 501 rape cases have been registered between January 2001 and December 2014 in the State.
â—© Forces in Gujarat are systematically targeting Dalits and Muslims to construct a right-wing monoculture and identity.
He further stated that Modiâ€™s failure to create jobs and ensure sustainable growth has been the main factor behind agitation by the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti, led by Hardik Patel, for reservation under the OBC [Other Backward Classes] quota.
Had Modi been committed to a sustainable growth [model], affluent social groups such as Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti would not have taken to the streets asking for reservation in employment and education, Mevani said.
It is Modiâ€™s gross failure that has created disharmony among various sections of the people in a once-peaceful State. This is his model of depravity and decay, which he attempts to implement across the country, he pointed out.
He further warned that Gujarat has been a laboratory to test the Hindutva agenda at the micro level and that right-wing extremists have now started implementing it at the national level.
â€œModi is their face. The countryâ€™s development is not their agenda. It is not about economics and development. It is something sinister, a majoritarian agenda that attempts to communalise a secular nation. The youth and farmers have been cheated like never before. Has Modi ever visited the family of a farmer who committed suicide? He will never in future too. For him big corporate houses are important, not the common man. Modi is just a mirage and will remain a total failure,â€ Mevani further said.
The Dalit rights activist reiterated that Modiâ€™s â€œVikas Purushâ€ image is just a corporate construct and that his agrarian policy in Gujarat was â€˜a mess.â€™ He alleged that despite the massive Narmada project, in which a huge amount of taxpayer money was spent, half of Gujaratis are left without any water and added that more than a lakh of manual scavengers [safai mazdoor] of the Valmiki community are struggling to get basic minimum wages.
Mevani insists that it is a carefully propagated but false image that depicts Gujarat as shining, revealing that Gujarat is not found among the top 10 developed States despite Modi having been in power there for four terms from 2001. Gujarat has the largest number of malnourished people in the country and one of the most corrupt regimes today, Mevani alleged.
Although Modi promised to build 50 lakh houses for the poor in the State, not even 1 per cent of that has been completed so far and a similar fate has fallen on other welfare schemes as well, he stated, emphasizing that this exposes the emptiness of the Gujarat model, which excludes Dalits and the marginalised.
He pointed out that there is a 300 per cent increase in violence against Dalit women in Gujarat today and that data provided in reply to a query under the Right to Information Act have revealed that a total of 501 rape cases have been registered between January 2001 and December 2014 in the State.
Dalits in 104 villages are living in perpetual fear of death since they suspect that the police who give them protection against casteist forces might withdraw at any time and expose them to danger, he added highlighting that the government has identified 11 districts, including Mehsana, Ahmedabad (Rural), Amreli, Rajkot and Surendranagar, as â€œatrocity proneâ€. Â He further stated that if the Gujarat model of Modi was â€˜inclusiveâ€™ as portrayed to be, Muslims would not be victimized.
â€œWe must realise that we are all sailing in the same boat targeting a toxic foeâ€”Hindutva and its Varnashrama-based casteist structure. Ambedkar, in 1944, said that â€œthe root of untouchability is in the caste system; the root of the caste system is religion attached to varna and ashram; and the roots of varnashramam is Brahminical religion; and the root of the Brahminical religion is authoritarianism or political power,â€ he stated alleging that forces in Gujarat are systematically targeting Dalits and Muslims to construct a right-wing monoculture and identity.
According to him the foremost requirement to defeat casteism and extremism is Dalit unity by removing the inherent â€œinternal casteismâ€ among the community.