It is common in Gujarat to open a conversation with an introductory note to know the caste, by asking the surname. Irked by this practice, many Dalit youths have started officially replacing their surname with their mother's name followed by father's name, to promote gender parity as well as fight discrimination.
The campaign gathered momentum with the Una uprising which kicks started after four Dalit youths were brutalised for alleged cow slaughter in July this year.
A 26-year-old medical student in the city, Nayan Nandaben Jayantibhai, who has given up his Solanki surname, proposed this initiative on a social networking website. It was widely endorsed enthusiastically by his friends. As many as 500 youths have joined the initiative so far.
During my posting at the village medical centre in Becharaji taluka of Mehsana district, patients would first ask ‘Tame Keva’. On knowing about his caste, their attitude would invariably change. After Una, I decided to put an end to the caste-based identification and chose to assume my mother’s name. This is to drive home the point that like all creatures, we are born from our mother’s wombDr Tarun Chandrikaben Baldevbhai, a medical officer
“After Una, I was disturbed by caste discrimination being faced by Dalits”, Dr Nayan Nandaben Jayantibhai , who proposed this initiative said, adding that he will soon change his name legally.
Mehsana-based Dalit rights activist, Kaushik Parmar, who changed his name to Kaushik Jamnaben Babubhai, said: “The government has done little for Dalits and women; both remain suppressed.” He said the initiative aimed to empower women and neutralise caste discrimination.
According to a sociologist Ghanshyam Shah, this initiative is modelled on movements led by progressive freedom fighters such as Jayprakash Narayan during which many people shed surnames for social equality, heeding the ‘Total Revolution’ call.