Jignesh Mevani, the young lawyer spearheading the protests against atrocities against Dalits, has launched a campaign to raise Rs 13 lakhs via crowdfunding platform BigGiving.
This marks the first time a socio-political movement is trying to use the Internet to generate funds after the stunning success of a similar effort by Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party two years ago.
Mevani, who works under the banner of Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (National Dalit Rights Forum), however has set his eyes for a far lower target compared to (then) anti-corruption crusader Kejriwal. While Aam Aadmi Party was able to raise up to Rs 1.3 crore per day, Mevani has a much more modest target.
The one-month campaign was launched yesterday, and has already attracted about two dozen donations totalling about Rs 45,000 — or 3% of the targeted Rs 13 lakh.
“We are no longer able to manage the expenditure incurred in organizing this struggle and parallel agitations that RDAM (Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch) is organizing,” Mevani said on the fund request page.
“Most of us are working full time and aren’t beneficiaries of any kind of funding, whatsoever. To keep the movement going for the coming year, we’ll need funds for sustaining those working full time, materials required for each agitation which involves printing campaign material, banners etc and other miscellaneous expenses.”
The campaign has also given a breakdown of how it is going to utilize the funds. Payment is accepted via debit cards, credit cards, net banking and Paytm wallet.
Mevani shot into prominence after emerging as one of the faces of the recent protests by Dalits against violence by right-wing vigilantes. One video in particular, in which some Dalit youth were tied to a car and beaten mercilessly for skinning a cow, led to widespread protests in the state of Gujarat.
Right wing vigilante violence, and the protests against it, became so widespread that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to step in and bluntly term vigilantes — who were carrying out the attacks in the name of their religion — anti-social.
Urging state government to prepare “dossiers” on these “cow protectors” and keep them under control, Modi said: “It will be found that 70 to 80% are people who commit the kind of bad deeds which society does not accept. To hide their bad activities, they don the mantle of cow protectors,”
The stern message, followed by some tough action by state police, had an immediate effect, and violence in the name of the holy cow came down.
FROM COW TO LAND
Having met with some success in the anti-vigilante campaign, Mevani indicated that his organization is now looking at broadening the pro-Dalit movement to other issues.
“As the Convener of Una Dalit Atyachar Ladat Samiti and Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, I, Jignesh Mevani, would like to extend this appeal to all of you. On October 1, thousands of us will be taking part in Rail Roko agitation to demand for our rightful right to land which has been stalled by the Gujarat Government for years and I appeal to all of you Bhim Sainiks to join us,” he said.
“Thousands of acres of land of Dalits is in illegal possession in Gujarat and their livelihood remains stalled as a reason,” he added. “Spending all their lives going from pillar to post demanding what is theirs; generations have spent all their energy in this struggle for land.”