By Tarushi Aswani

Ahmedabad: “We want a Hindu Rashtra. Only the BJP, RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh], VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad], and Bajrang Dal can ensure a casteless India,” said Jayesh Rathod, a Dalit from Ahmedabad’s Behrampura, who works as a laundryman for a living.

Two of Rathod’s daughters are part of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) – a right-wing student organisation affiliated with the RSS. “Since they were young, I have been teaching them to become soldiers for the cause of the Hindu Rashtra,” he explained.

A sizeable number of Dalits are joining radical Hindutva outfits such as the VHP and Bajrang Dal, which have advocated for the caste system. The fact that these groups in the past attacked several Dalits in the name of cow slaughter is not discouraging them from joining forces with the Hindutva outfits.

According to Kalpesh Gohil, a Dalit, who joined the VHP in 2014, India is now “unofficially” a Hindu Rashtra. “It’s been nine years since I joined and I see that we are living in a Hindu Rashtra. All high posts are occupied by Hindus – though unofficially. But, we are a Hindu Rashtra.”

Akash Kailash Pol (29) is an active worker of the Bajrang Dal. He has been working towards urging Hindu youth from Ahmedabad’s Gomtipur to join training camps of Hindutva outfits.

“People from other religions have fixed days to congregate – like Fridays and Sundays. But our youth is not serious about Hinduism. See Ram Mandir stands as a reality, but it is built on the sacrifice of young Hindu men who waged a war for Hindutva. But today’s youth will not stand a chance if they do not join us [Bajrang Dal],” said Pol.

Nilesh Solanki, who is a proactive member of the VHP from Gomtipur, shared with The Wire his reason to join the organisation. “You see, living in Gomtipur is like living on the India-Pakistan border, there is a large presence of Muslim population here. We must fight for our faith whenever the need arises. We should always be greater in number than Muslims.”

Attacks on Dalits continue unabated

According to the 2001 Census, the population of the Scheduled Castes in Gujarat stood at 35.93 lakhs, which constituted 7.09% of the total population of the state of 5.07 crore.

The Dalit community in Gujarat continues to face ostracisation. There have been several instances of violence against Dalits, including public flogging, murder, harassment, rape, among others. The situation of Dalits has only become worse since 2010, according to the data from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Cell. The National Crimes Bureau’s 2020 report put the number of crimes against Dalits in Gujarat at 1,313.

Attacks against Dalits continue unabated in the state. As recently as February 11, a Dalit student in Rajkot alleged that his classmates physically assaulted him due to his identity. In another incident from Anand district in the state, a wedding procession of a Dalit groom was forcibly stopped by ‘upper’ caste members on February 23. The accused were said to have hurled casteist slurs and threatened the members of the Valmiki community, which is categorised as Dalits, for taking out the procession. Police booked three people in connection with the incident.

These attacks by Hindutva outfits on Dalits have not deterred a considerable number of Dalits who are taking membership in radical Hindutva outfits.

Speaking of the caste-based violence in the state, Saharash Rathod, a Dalit and a member of Bajrang Dal, told The Wire that RSS, VHP, and the Bajrang Dal are trying their best to prevent such violence…

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