Gujarat has been in the headlines for quite sometime now, but for all the wrong reasons. Dalit atrocities have been on the rise and have been severely effecting the psyche of the youngsters in the community. They have, however, found a way to compensate for that. 'Be the change to see the change around you' and they are living by this idea now.
Despite being slashed with a razor, 17-year-old Digant Mehariya pledged that he would fight for the cause of the Dalits and the youngsters of his age. Sitting in the orthopedic ward of a hospital in Gandhinagar, he says, "I will grow a moustache long enough to proudly twirl it. And, I will maintain that look."
Attacked with a razor just 24 hours ago, he says he was targetted because he was witness to an assault on his cousin Piyush Parmar. The latter was allegedly thrashed by a group of dominant-caste men in their village Limbodara, 30 kilometers from Gandhinagar for sporting a moustache on Sept 25. Three days later, another of his friends Kurnal Rohit was also attacked and his leg broken. But, this has just added fuel to her resolution as Mehariya says, "I already have a wound on my back with 15 stitches. I do not fear anyone anymore."
This has been the case with them as they form only 7% of the total 6 crore population in the state. Asserting that their plights have never been taken seriously by the politicians, the youngsters of the community have now taken to a very novel way of protesting themselves.
In fact, minutes after the attacks on Mehariya, young men started posting selfies flaunting their moustaches. Many also changed their display photos to a twirling moustache with a text attached to it: Mr Dalit. A social media campaign has also been started on WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook with hashtags such as #RightToMoustache and groups such as ‘Moonch To Rakhenge’.
One of the formalisers of the campaign 'Mooch To Rakhenge', Ketan Solanki said, "We use social media to tell our community that they should not get oppressed." Another participant Bhavin Ambubhai said, "In my new group, I asked every member of my community to change their display picture in Facebook to one with moustache prominently seen. If any caste thinks only they can sport this symbol of masculinity, then they are wrong."
Several offline protests have also been reported, including the one which demanded the resignation of minister of state for home Pradeepsinh Jadeja. Although the authorities seem to have become proactive after such spiralling cases of atrocities across the state, a solution to the problem is still far from reality.
Amrut Dudhapara, an elderly Dalit, speaking to the Hindustan Times, said that this was the first time in 25 years that a case of atrocity was registered. However, he also hinted at the low numbers since not all low-castes felt encouraged to stand against the upper-caste counterparts. But, the youngsters in the community seem not to back down and have set sail to change the system and the prevailing discrepancy in their own small way.