<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Putting to rest reports of Congress’s overtures to him, Jignesh Mevani on Thursday said that he was not joining the party. The firebrand Dalit leader, though said he is ready for a discussion with top Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi.The convener of Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch said, “I am not going to contest the polls either. The only thing we want is the Congress to clarify its stand on the 17 demands that we have made for Dalits.”Among the demands are allotment of five acres of farmland to each Dalit family, alternative employment to those involved in skinning of cattle and manual scavenging, and the release of a probe report into the firing on the community members at Thangadh in Surendranagar district in 2012. Mewani said the Bharatiya Janata Party has never responded to their demands. “We want the Congress to say what it is going to do if the Dalits were to support it. I am open to talks with the Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi. But it will be an open meeting and not a secret one.”The 34-year-old, a lawyer by training, came under the spotlight after four Dalit youth were stripped and flogged by cow vigilantes for skinning a dead bovine last year. Mevani had managed to galvanise the Dalit youth to lead huge protests across the state. In the past year, Mevani has emerged as someone whom political parties cannot afford to ignore, particularly ahead of the assembly elections. Gujarat goes to polls in two phases on December 9 and 14.BJP has been in power in the state since 1995.To a question on why the demands of Dalits were not a matter of concern for political parties, Mevani said it will soon become one. “Let us first wait for what the Congress has to say. If the parties continue to ignore the demand we will restart the agitation.” At the height of the Dalit agitation, Mevani said, BJP had promised to look into the demands. “In the meeting that we had with home minister Pradipsinh Jadeja after Dalits threatened a rail roko agitation, he said he will look into the demands. We haven’t heard from him or the BJP since then.”Mevani, other backward caste leader Alpesh Thakor, and Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti leader Hardik Patel are being seen as game changers in the upcoming state polls. The equation changed after Thakor joined the Congress with his supporters and reports emerged of a secret meeting between Hardik Patel and Congress leaders.His demandsFulfill promises made to Una victims, including govt jobs, BPL cards and trial of the accused in a fast-track court.Farmland for Dalits who have left the job of skinning dead animals or want to quit it. Compensation for those cleaning manholes as they have been forced to work under inhuman conditions

View the original here: 

Not joining Congress, says Jignesh Mevani