Dalit Resistance in the Laboratory of Development

August 1, 2016

Flayers and leather workers strike in Gujarat against years of caste oppression and violence

On July 11, members of Gau Raksha Samiti in Una, Gujarat came across a Dalit family skinning the carcass of a dead cow. The gaurakashaks accused the family of "go hatya", cow slaughter. The entire family was assaulted and young men of the family were taken away, stripped, chained and bludgeoned with iron rods. This happened right near a police station and for several hours in full public view. The state of Gujarat saw a spontaneous wave of massive protests against this incident. There were close to thirty attempted suicides by Dalits in protest against the caste injustice and rampant violence apportioned to them.
The most ingenious form of protest that has captured national attention is the mass strike of Dalit flayers and leather workers across the state. Dalits across Gujarat have refused to lift or skin animal carcasses -- their traditional work under the Indian caste order. Rotting carcasses can be seen deposited at many collector's offices. Despite the loss of income, a huge number of families have participated in this creative act of solidarity. Prof. Vimal Thorat discusses the historical context of this resistance shown by the community.