'Dalits are not going to vote for the BJP in 2019.'
IMAGE: Dalit leader and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani addresses the Hunkar rally in New Delhi, December 9, 2017. Photograph: Kamal Kishore/PTI Photo
Mevani tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf why Dalits are angry and disillusioned with the Narendra D Modi government.
What was the Hunkar rally about?
I did not call for this rally. I was only one speaker at the rally.
The idea behind the rally was to raise the issue of social justice which is denied to people belonging to the lower castes.
Ever since Prime Minister Narendra D Modi came to power in 2014, the exploitation of Dalits and Muslims has increased.
Be it in the name of gau mata or ghar wapsi or love jihad.
Be it Saharanpur or Una or Bhima Koregaon, these incidents keep happening.
The prime minister says he is a follower of Dr Ambedkar, but he keeps silent in such cases and doesn't take concrete action.
This is a sorry state of affairs and therefore, we demand that social justice, which is a Constitutional obligation, be ensured.
Another demand was to raise the issue of unemployment.
Before coming to power, the PM promised he would create two crore jobs every year in the country.
Forget two crore jobs, he hasn't even created one per cent of that two crore jobs.
In 6,000 hospitals across India there is a vacancy of two lakh (200,000) doctors. Nobody is doing anything about trying to fill up the posts.
Primary and upper primary schools have a vacancy of 10 lakh (1 million) teachers, but on that front too no action is being taken.
There are four lakh (400,000) vacancies in the railways; in spite of all that no jobs are being created.
If you have such facts then you should have taken a memorandum to Prime Minister Modi rather than speaking about it at the rally.
A memorandum was submitted to the concerned authorities on these issues seven days ago.
People in this country have been submitting memoranda decade after decade.
At the same time, I want an explanation from him regarding the violence we all witnessed in Bhima Koregaon.
What does he have to say about the denial of justice to the victims of Una?
What does he have to say to Radhika Vemula?
Why is Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar Azad still in jail?
PM Modi claims he is an Ambedkar bhakt, so why is he not doing anything about these issues?
You said you will meet PM Modi and ask him to choose between the Constitution of India and Manusmriti. What happened to that meeting?
We are seeking his explanation through the media. The police did not allow us to go there (Modi's 7, Lok Kalyan Marg office/home).
We, the people of the country, want to know whether PM Modi believes in the Indian Constitution or Manusmriti.
Why are people being killed in the name of gau mata, ghar wapsi and love jihad?
How can Modi be conveniently silent on these issues?
PM Modi says he is from the lower castes and highlights this point regularly.
That is what I am saying. If he is saying that he is a bhakt of Dr Ambedkar, then he must prove it.
Secondly, why is an elected representative of this country not allowed to carry out a peaceful rally?
These are valid questions I am raising.
IMAGE: Protestors at the Hunkar rally in New Delhi. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters
But the Hunkar rally was a flop; you were greeted with empty chairs.
I am more than happy and satisfied with the turnout.
All the 3,000 people who turned up at the rally came to face the lathi charge and get arrested.
Despite the fact that the joint commissioner of Delhi police tweeting that permission was not granted for the rally, 3,000 people turned up.
This is a big thing. Therefore, I am personally satisfied and happy.
Last week, I asked Umar Khalid about your comments that Dalits support you and are with you. If that's true, why do the Dalits vote for the BJP?
That's not true. In Gujarat, the BJP got lesser seats in the Dalit constituencies.
I won from Vadgam and I started campaigning just 15 days before the election.
Two BJP Dalit ministers lost. The Dalits of Gujarat are not with the BJP.
The same is the case in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and other states.
Dalits, in general, are not with the BJP. In UP their votes got divided between the Congress and the BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party).
The way the BJP and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) played communal politics in UP to woo Dalit youths that will not always be possible for them to convince Dalits.
That is the reason the BJP is scared of me.
News channels say I am provoking Dalits. They doctored my video and are showing wrong videos.
I have said call any Constitutional expert and find out whether I said anything wrong or not.
There is an accusation that you are an agent of the Congress party and are trying to create unrest in India.
Some news channels say that and I don't care about it.
People from the CPI (Communist Party of India) and CPI-ML (Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist) campaigned for me.
Yogendra Yadav of the Swaraj Party campaigned for me.
The National Bahujan Alliance -- which has 28 Bahujan political parties and groups -- campaigned for me.
AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) and BSP cadres came to campaign for me.
All these people came together for me and therefore, the BJP is scared of me.
The speed with which I am going ahead they are not able to deal with it. Therefore, they are indulging in propaganda against me through different news channels.
Why would the BJP be scared of you?
The BJP's Dalit leaders have not been able to do anything for the Dalit people.
Dalits know what is happening in Una, Saharanpur and Bhima Koregaon.
Dalits are not getting justice and they are genuinely angry with the BJP.
When Dalits join politics, they make claims about changing their community's status. Later, they merge with national parties and lose their idealism.
Will you end up that way?
If you become an MP or MLA, it doesn't mean the caste system has been annihilated.
We will have to continue an agitation among the people within the Constitutional framework.
I will be raising Dalit issues in the (Gujarat) assembly, at the same time I will be raising those issues on the ground too.
If I don't do that, then I too will be co-opted in the system.
IMAGE: Jignesh Mevani and Kanhaiya Kumar at the Hunkar rally. Photograph: Kamal Kishore/PTI Photo
There is an allegation that you are trying to break up India by caste politics.
My agenda is annihilation of caste.
My motto is 'jaati todo samaj jodo' (break caste, unite society).
The Poona Pact between Dr Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi was widely criticised by the late BSP founder Kanshi Ram in his book Chamcha Age.
Can't we find a solution between the so-called upper castes and Dalits in India?
We, as a nation, must debate on how to annihilate the caste system.
Article 17 of the Constitution says that untouchability has to be abolished.
An NGO called Nav Sarjan in Gujarat challenged Chief Minister Vijay Rupani to make only one village free of untouchability.
Rupani did not accept the challenge.
Is untouchability being practised even today in Gujarat?
Across 1,589 villages in Gujarat, 97 types of untouchability is found to be practised.
These villages were randomly picked up by NGOs and study groups.
The moot question is that Rupani was asked to make only one village untouchability free and he did not accept the challenge.
Untouchability is practised in the state which claims it is vibrant and number one in India.
The prime minister talks of sabka saath, sabka vikas. What rubbish!
At the Hunkar rally, you, Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid, Shehla Rashid claimed you will ensure that PM Modi will not win the 2019 election.
What will you do in the next 15 months that will ensure PM Modi's defeat?
The way Dalits are terribly offended, with every passing day the BJP and Sangh Parivar are getting exposed.
Dalits are not going to vote for the BJP in 2019.
Secondly, there is an enormous economic crisis going on in India because of GST and notebandi (demonetisation).
People in general are upset. Youth feel terribly cheated by the Modi government.
PM Modi said he will create employment for two crore people every year and by that logic he should have created eight crore (80 million) jobs in India.
The reality today is after four years, Modi has not been able to create even eight lakh (800,000) jobs in India.
The BJP will talk about ghar wapsi, love jihad and gau mata.
We will be talking about notebandi, GST and unemployment.
If we keep raising the right issues, then there is a great chance that Modi will not become prime minister in 2019.
Modi does not deserve to be the PM in 2019.
Modi is a symbol of failure.
He neither got Rs 15 lakh (Rs 1.5 million) into our bank accounts nor have farmers stopped committing suicide.
He is a failure and unable to deliver. He is a disaster.