We all will have to commit ourselves to democratic rights and values to form a new civic society

dalitdemoBy Gautam Thaker*

A Convention of the concerned citizens committed to democratic ideology and harboring in their heart interest and well-being of the society at large, was held in Ahmedabad on September 9, 2016 which was attended by a large number of citizens. While addressing this civic democracy convention the senior solicitor Girish Patel had stated that the present government and its accomplices are attempting to annihilate the national values. There is a great upheaval in all the formations of the system, such as in education, health and culture. Everywhere, the RSS wants to thrust and retain its hold. He quoted a sentence from Evizel that “a time comes when we may not be capable to counter the injustice, but a time should not come when we may fail to oppose it (injustice)”. Based on this, we all need to get united and commit ourselves to save and defend the democracy and democratic values.

Former Chief Minister, Suresh Mehta said that since 2002, people having a criminal mindset have been ruling the State. To see to it that no one takes for a ride, the people of Gujarat as weak and guileless, it is necessary that in the wake of golden opportunity before the forthcoming elections, the stand taken by the people of Surat recently that “we will tolerate an ugly thief, but certainly not you” shall have to be adopted and we will have to be prepared for a transformation by practicing innovative experiments.

Prakash N Shah, who presided, said that this convention is convened at a crucial stage of the history. Agitations  launched in the past were to some extent divisive. Support extended this time by the society at large, including the  Muslim community during Dalit agitations, appears to be uniting the society. With the co-operation and support of social institutions, activists and awakened citizens, attempts will be made to constitute an all-inclusive group which will reach out to the people across all districts of Gujarat.

Talking about the sufferings of Dalits, Kantilal Parmar of Navsarjan Trust said that even after 70 years since the Independence, solution to the problems faced by Dalits is nowhere visible. He gave in detail, statistical information on menace of ‘untouchabiliy’ in Gujarat. During last 25 years, after enactment of Atrocities Act there have been 568 incidents of murders, 852 of rapes and deaths of 258 of gutter workers / scavenger, all belonging to the Dalit community.

Saraben Baldiwala of Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group (AWAG) expressed strangulated voice of women folk stating that woman is being seen in comparison to a man as if there is not different identity of her own.

Young advocate Samsad Pathan voiced heart-burning agony of the minority community, saying that the talk of constitutional rights of the minority community appears to be a ridiculous matter. The government either denies or creates hurdles as regard the right to education right to practice religious faith, right to establish and run educational institute and freedom of religious administration conferred on the Muslim community.

While proposing a resolution, national chairman of the Indian Radical Humanist Association, Gautam Thaker, stated that in Gujarat, there is topsy-turvy and complete deterioration of the so-called Rule of Law. There has been a tremendous rise in the crime rate in the state during the last five years, whereas there is a deficit of 25,000 policemen. The government has announced largesse of lakhs of rupees during the Sadabhavna Fast, but it needs to be inquired whether its funds have been received by towns or cities. Managing the offices with the staff on fixed pay without any recruitment cannot, in any way, solve the unemployment problem.While seconding the resolution, Dwarikanath Rath of the Movement for Secular Democracy talked about the conditions of unorganized workers in Gujarat.

Resolution adopted by the Citizens’ Democracy Convention (Nagrik Lokshahi Samelan)  

Social life of Gujarat shall get face lift with our collective thinking and joint efforts

Gujarat has borne the brunt of people’s distress and discontent for last one year. This distress and discontent has been visible in the social, economical, cultural and political fronts. Increasing inflation is adding fuel to the fire. As a matter of fact, condition of entire nation is no different. Adversely critical report of the CAG, on State’s functioning equally applies to working style of the central Government.

As a result of above, it appears as if there is a crack or divide in the State’s social order. ‘Rule of Law’ has completely crashed in the State. The heat and dust of social distress in the State has created a situation of political uncertainty. The haste and harshness on the part of ruling party, B.J.P. has aggravated difficulties of the people.

The divide in the social order of Gujarat was sighted in the Patidar agitation during the last year. This Patidar agitation had torn apart the rosy picture of ‘Gujarat Model’. In the backdrop of agitation by youths of Patidar community which is reckoned as a relatively affluent class in the State, gravity of unemployment of youths in Gujarat had come to the lime light.

It is indeed a fact that in Gujarat, there has not been any recruitment in government jobs. Right from Gandhinagar to Dangs all the government offices in Gujarat are teeming with ad hoc and prohibited contract systems. In the widely and loudly talked about Vibrant Summits, investments had not materialised to the desired extent. Simaltaneously the Goernment completely failed in generating employment opportunities.

Hundreds of industries with vast tax concessions in earth-quake affected Kutch nor the Nano Project of Tata with loans of thousands of crores of rupees has not helped much in employment of the local people which has been reflected in the above agitation. This agitation also revealed that in the name of industrialization lands of farmers were grabbed which has had adverse impact on the society. This reality was reflected in many land related agitations in the State though not of the magnitude of Singur (W.B.)

Moreover outcome of newly initiated economic policy started in 1991 by the Congress regime and accelerated by the BJP-NDA Govt. was found ugly and easily tangible  in Gujarat. With such ugly outcome all the castes right from Patel to those of Bakshi Panch category have been distressed in the State.

With the discrimination, excesses, atrocities on the Dalits there had been explosion of insult against them as evident from Una episode. In protest against that incident, dalits turned out in large numbers and emphasized insistence for their rights. It is worth noting that people of Gujarat and the media lent their support to this agitation by the dalits. During the Patidar agitation, feelings and complaints were voiced that BJP had misused them during 2002. Not only that, Muslims who were victimized during the 2002 carnage also came out in open in support of dalit with a sense of solidarity, which can be considered as a noteworthy development sign of social order.

Government’s undemocratic approach was exposed due to its making use of Section 144 and other restrictive steps to curb the agitations for protection of civil and democratic rights in the State. Moreover, various labour unions of the State also had criticized and thus expressed solidarity in support of dalits. On the other hand, women’s associations were found voicing their protests against increasing excesses against women folk.

Voice of protest is emerging among the workers against anti-labour law reforms. Workers from the unorganized sector are also emphatically voicing their demand for their rights. It is remarkable that labour unions all throughout the country are including in their agitation the issues of inflation and lands related matters. The condition of education and health has deteriorated to the bottom level. Right from 2003 in the name of ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ environmental condition has worsened and pollution has increased to such an extent that rivers, lakes and coastal areas have been severely polluted. The ruling party has reduced the legislature assembly of the state to a  ‘skeleton’.

Thus, with joining of hands by the farmers associated with the land agitation and adivasis, dalts together with minorities and the women in this protest agitation, there appears emegence of a new horizon. It is essential for the people having faith in democratic ideology and those committed to the interest of society at large, to get united to defeat such vitiated and adverse factors.

This Convention is an initial step on the direction that all such protest agitations based on civil and democratic rights may result in allince for a new civil society and by becomng a common factor for transformaton in the State so as to lead the state in the alternative direction.

Citizens Democracy Convention resolves that by going all around in rural and urban areas of Gujarat people’s awareness programmes by using audio-visual technology for relaying and canvassing the programmes of common benefit and wider interest and to take forward the future programmes. The Convention has announced appointments of three conveners, viz., Shri Gautam Thaker of PUCL, Shri Dwarikanath Rath of Movement for Secular Demoracy and Rajani Dave of Gujarat Sarvoday Mandal.

*Convener, Civic Democracy Convention

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