About 1,000 Dalits, mostly women, staged a dharna outside the Varkala police station this afternoon to protest against the police-Shiv Sena assault on Dalit colonies.
The dharna was under the auspices of an umbrella organization called Dalit Janaadhipathya Aikyamunnani (Dalit Democratic United Front).
The protestors marched through the main road, raising slogans, before converging in front of the police station. Both the march and the dharna were peaceful and orderly.
The preponderance of women in the demonstration is easily explained. The Dalit men are hiding fearing arrest and torture.
A notice distributed by Aikyamunnani says, “Sivaprasad, an ordinary person, was killed while on a morning walk in Varkala. Whoever committed this inhuman murder, democratic society has to condemn it. Also, the culprits must be brought before the law and punished. But following the murder the leaders and workers of Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM) have been jailed. They have even been refused bail. Besides, under cover of the Varkala incident, the entire Dalit community is being portrayed as terrorists. They have even coined a term Dalit Terrorism. What are the facts that prompt them to do this? It is nothing else. All across Kerala today the message is spreading that Dalits are no longer willing to drink the bitter juice of neglect and remain as slaves. The stamp of terrorism is put on Dalits in order to nip these awakenings in the bud. The Savarna strategy of mobilizing the entire society against Dalits is also behind it. The ruling establishment had earlier fabricated the false equation Muslim equals Terrorism. Today, through the Varkala incident, it is being extended to the Dalits.”
I inaugurated the dharna. PUCL state secretary Advocate P. A. Pauran and several Dalit leaders addressed the meeting. Pauran and I took the opportunity to reassure the Dalits that in the state and the country there is a civil society which understands their problem and is with them in their struggle for equality and equal opportunity.
During the weekend the Aikyamunnani had put up posters announcing the dharna. The posters had said I would be inaugurating the dharna. This provoked the Shiv Sena to launch a poster campaign of its own. Its posters called for investigation of my links with “NDF extremists”, the sources of my finances and the presence of “an ISI spy” during my visit to Dalit colonies as a member of a fact-finding team on October 18. I was for ignoring the Shiv Sena’s silly campaign but some young activists thought the vicious campaign needed to be countered. It was their effort that resulted in a joint statement by some prominent persons deploring the campaign of communal fascists.