Ahmedabad: Jignesh Mevani has been making waves in national politics in recent weeks. Soon after being elected to the Gujarat assembly as an independent candidate, the Dalit rights activist crossed over to Maharashtra, attending an event to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon, which is seen by many Dalit organizations as the first step in the fight against caste-based oppression. He then made a beeline for New Delhi to continue his criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to choose between the “Constitution and Manusmriti” and taking to the streets of the national capital along with others activists from different parts of the country at the Yuva Hunkar rally.

On his return to his home state, Mevani attended a function at Ahmedabad’s Town Hall organized by the Urvashi Education Trust on Friday to felicitate members of Scheduled Castes elected to the Gujarat legislative assembly in the December polls. After the event, over a cup of tea, MeraNews spoke with the firebrand legislator about tackling India’s caste system and how he’s coping with his busy schedule.

Edited excerpts from an interview:

What is the reason for your direct attacks on the Prime Minister?

Everyone is aware of the promises that were made by the Prime Minister before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He promised to create 2 crore jobs every year, to distribute Rs15 lakh from black money seized to each person—these promises have not been fulfilled by him. So I’ve questioned him about the people’s rights and the fulfilment of the promises he made to the public.

Is it possible to abolish the caste system in India?

To quote Dr B.R. Ambedkar (the author of India’s Constitution), when inter-caste marriages happen in large numbers, it will diminish the importance of castes and birth identity. Then it will be very easy to abolish the caste hierarchy and the practice of the caste system.

What is life like in rural Dalit areas?

Life is not good in many areas because of the lack of development. Not one village has officially announced that it has abolished untouchability. People cannot live without fear and enjoy their constitutional freedom, while the government is trumpeting Digital India. When they (Dalits) go to cities and towns, they are not allowed to buy houses in so-called “swarna” societies.

You have been in the news frequently on hot topics. Have you been threatened?

I came to know about some people that are planning to stop me and disturb my work as I have been raising important issues. On social media, there are many threatening posts and comments against me and my work every day.

You have a busy schedule and have been travelling a lot. How do you feel?

I’ve been having pain in my lower back. Apart from that, I get headaches and body aches because of the constant travelling. Most of the time, dinner is at midnight after reaching home, and lunchtime is not fixed till date.

What next?

I have received greetings and wishes from all over the state (Gujarat). There are a number of people who are eager to join my movement, especially in the state. With their love, I will set up a strong team soon. People want to be part of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch (of which he is the convenor).

Hitesh Chavda tweets at @HiteshChavdaNad.

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