It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. And, vice versa. Rattled by the traction the Dalit issue is getting in the media (it started with Rohith Vemula’s suicide in January) and its possible political impact on the upcoming Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh elections, the BJP is doing its best to display its Dalit-friendly face. And how best to do it? Blame the Opposition Congress for not doing much to improve the plight of the Dalits during their tenure.
Speaking in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, home minister Rajnath Singh said that much of the atrocities against Dalits were a result of “perverted mindset in some anti-social elements” (not a word on gau rakshaks, of course) and insisted that the number of incidents against Dalits has come down since the Narendra Modi government took over in 2014.
According to the home minister, the number of registered cases against Dalits in 2013 was 39,346; it rose to 40,300 in 2014 and then fell to 38,564 in 2015.
Attacking the Opposition, Singh added that the BJP has done what the Congress could not do in 55 years. While what the central government has done for the Dalits was not clear, it is true that the Congress too does not have a great record when it comes to Dalit issues. In fact, BSP chief Mayawati correctly said in Parliament on July 21: “Everyone talks about the atrocities on Dalits in Parliament, but nothing happens practically... “Even after the Constitution was laid down by Baba Ambedkar, Dalits still have not received their full rights. Unfortunate that discrimination against Dalits in country hasn’t ended despite BJP, Congress long tenure after independence.”
“When BJP is in power they politicise the atrocities on Dalits and Congress does the same when in power; this should stop,” she added.
In Lok Sabha on Thursday, Union Minister of Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan went a step ahead, alleging that the Congress humiliated national icon BR Ambedkar.
In fact, it is not only the BJP Cabinet ministers who are living in denial about the issue and their responsibility, even the new Gujarat chief minister who said earlier this week that the Una incident was instigated by the BSP.
The BJP must realise that the Dalit issue is not something that can be wished away with such rebuttals and getting into a verbal duel with the Opposition; instead, the government should address this rationally without denying the problem or politicising it further.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the cow vigilante groups to stop harassing Dalits. But as new Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani showed on Wednesday and the Cabinet ministers on Thursday, when it comes to Dalit issues, they still t hink it is best to look the other way and hope that the issue will go away on its own.