About 140 km from Ahmedabad, we are in Patan district of North Gujarat.
On both sides of State Highway 55, the cotton and wheat fields are peeping behind the queues of thorny bushes. Crossing this extension of the fields, we reach Bortwada village in Patna’s Harji taluka.
It is a busy morning for Mahesh Bhai Makwana, Sarpanch of village Rohitwas, who lives in Dalit dominated area of Borotwada.
First Dalit Sarpanch of the village
We go through them beside the standing house and along the side of the standing tractor as well as reach them.
Here, 41-year-old Mahesh, who is confused between the paper and the mobile phone, is constantly handling the daily work of Panchayat. In the history of Bortwada, Mahesh is the first Dalit Sarpanch of this village.
After the formation of the Gujarat Panchayat Act in 1961, for the first time in 2016, Bortwada was declared a reserved seat under Scheduled Castes / Tribes.
Mahesh took over as the Sarpanch in April 2017, winning this first panchayat election with 12 votes in the reserved seat in the village. But within two months, the village’s Panchayat Committee brought a no-confidence motion against them.
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Mahesh alleges that due to being a Dalit, members of Panchayat Committee do not like him.
He says, “I have selected 3200 ordinary people of the village to vote for Sarpanch but Panchayat Committee’s five Thakur Panchayats want to keep them in their fist. He does not allow me to work for Panchayat. Every attempt is made to prevent and disturb me from the stutter, from distrust to dissolution of Panchayat by bringing a motion of motion “.
‘Jignesh Mewani is our leader’
Apart from Mahesh, there are 11 more members in the Borotwada Panchayat Committee, including five Thakur and three Chauftary members.
The non-confidence motion was passed but Mahesh’s zeenan had a deep streak of unbelief.
Referring to the dalits of his village in Gujarat elections, he says, “Jignesh Mewani is our leader, BJP or Congress, we will vote for those who will accept Jignesh’s 12 demands for the Dalits of Gujarat. I will say that Jignesh has to say that he should demand separate state for the dalits. ”
Mahesh becomes silent when asked about the reason for the different state’s heart. Then he tears in his eyes and smiles on his face, he says, “3200 people of this village with 70 Dalit houses chose me as their Sarpanch, but only five Thakurs were not allowed to work.” What can be a big misery?
What is called Thakur?
We reach the Harjeet taluka center, from Rohitvas Mohalla where our meeting is from Bharat and Dilip Thakur, members of the Bortwada Panchayat Committee.
Manggishi Thakur, father of these two brothers coming from the same family, is the sub-center of Bortwada. Dismissing Mahesh’s allegations, Bharat says that Mahesh drives his arbitrariness.
They say, “When the village seat reservation was declared, we called all the Dalit society to the Shankar temple of the village and said that by agreeing with each other, why is there a need for elections? But no, all these forms Had to fill. ”
“After the election, Mahesh Makwana became the Sarpanch, but he wants to decide all alone against the consent of everyone, so we brought a no-confidence motion against him. People of our household are in Panchayat for years but this never happened. We will also complain to Mahesh by taluka development officer “.
Speaking about the electoral trend of the village, Bharat, a member of Panchayat Samiti, says, “There is no influence of any jigans in our village, all Dalits here will vote for those who will vote for us to vote. Not by looking at the Congress or the BJP, we decide to look at the local candidate. ”
‘He did not like Dalit Sarpanch’
Returning to Ahmedabad, our meeting with the Sarpanch belongs to Sanjay Parmar’s family in the Headwala Hanumant Gram Panchayat of Mehsana district.
The geographical spread of this village Panchayat, situated at the mouth of the city of Mehsana, is divided between rural and town areas. Sanjay, 39, who is coming from the urban background, is a businessman as well as the first Dalit Sarpanch of Headwa.
After winning the election for the first time in the reserved seat for the first time in 2015, he can handle his tenure only for fifteen months. Upon reaching home in a residential complex, it is revealed that Sanjay is admitted to hospital due to a long fever.
But to show his experience as a Dalit sarpanch, he becomes ready to talk to us in the hospital itself. He said, “There is a Panchayat going on in Haidua for 63 years but never the period of any Sarpanch has been interrupted, but why not only with a Dalit Sarpanch?”
“I was not allowed to pass the budget, no development work was allowed and the majority had been dissolved by the Panchayat. Just because the upper court of the upper caste family had occupied Panchayat for the last twenty years, they did not like Dalit Sarpanch like me. ”
Long battle for justice
Sanjay has filed three complaints against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against partisan attacks with him as Sarpanch and he is fighting a long court battle for justice.
Sanjay again became Sarpanch after winning the general election in April 2017. Regarding his victory, he says, “I have won by the people who have been educated in the urban areas of Headwa, by vote, I have never won the trust of the rural people.”
“My father is an Income Tax Commissioner. I spent the whole life in the city This is where Mehsana grew up. Never in the city has anyone realized that I am a Dalit but after coming to Panchayat for the first time I realized my dalit identity. While working in the Panchayat Committee, I would have felt my caste over and over again. ”
‘Jignes make a different party of Dalits’
Sanjay is not much optimistic about the Dalit influence that led to Jignesh Mewani in this Gujarat election. They say, “Jignesh’s movement has got very courageous people like me, but I can not say anything about how this movement will be converted into a major political success in this election.”
“But I want to say to Jignesh that he should not join any party of Congress and BJP and make a separate political identity of the Dalits of Gujarat”.
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Manu Bhai Parmar, a Dalit sarpanch of Akaba village in Mehsana district has been active for a long time as a BJP worker in the area.
His opinion about the Gujarat election is inversely opposite to Mahesh and Sanjay.
Claiming BJP’s victory in the state elections, he said that the state BJP government has done continuous development work for the upliftment of the Dalits.
He says, “The situation of Dalits in Gujarat is bad, this fact can not be totally denied, but the BJP government is not responsible for this situation of the Dalits. This problem is less administrative and more connected with social norms. The BJP government of Gujarat has done a lot of work for the Dalits. Leaders such as Ramanlal Vorah and Atmaram Parmar have done a lot of work for our society, Will only vote for Pa