Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Sunday said Congress cannot emerge as a principal party without support of the Dalits in the country and said whenever it was without major Dalit leaders, atrocities against the community had raised its head.
"We all want Congress to become a principal party in India, especially Tamil Nadu. But that cannot be achieved
without the support of Dalits," he said at a function in Chennai to mark the joining of expelled BSP leader K Selvam and his supporters in Congress.
Dalits constituted a major share in the population and if they were rejected and their rights denied, there was no
point in India being an independent nation, he said.
"Whenever Congress digressed from focussing on Dalit issues or when Dalit leaders left the party, atrocities
against Dalits had raised its head. This is a fact. To make India powerful and prosperous, we need Dalits' support," he
Saying that the likes of Dalit icons such as Babasaheb Ambedkar and Babu Jagjivan Ram could bring in changes since
they were in the Congress, Chidambaram exhorted members of the community to join the party and become leaders.
He recalled that Mahatma Gandhi had focussed on Dalit issues and their aspirations as part of his freedom struggle.
"We accepted that struggle but not today's armed struggle by Naxals," he said.
In its long history, veteran leader P Kakkan was the first Dalit leader to become TNCC president, later followed by
others like Maragatham Chandrasekhar, Chidambaram said adding a member of the community could lead the Congressmen in the
future too in Tamil Nadu.
Underlining the UPA's commitment towards Dalits' welfare, he said over Rs 2000 crore had been allotted for the
students of the community for their educational needs, including those pursuing M.Phil and PhD.
Speaking at the birth centenary celebrations of Kakkan in Madurai on Saturday night, Chidambaram denounced honour killings and discrimination against Dalits, saying such things brought disrepute to the country.
"Such (honour) killings only brought disgrace and disrepute to the country..In some places parents removed their
children from schools if the mid-day meal is cooked by Dalits," he said.
He referred to the recent incident in Uttar Pradesh where parents removed their children from schools where the
mid-day meals were cooked by Dalits.
The country's economic growth rate of nine per cent or Forex reserve of $300 billion would serve no purpose if
atrocities like untouchability continued in India, he said.
"India will get real independence only if social evils are eradicated from the heart," he said.