Under attack on the issue of assualt on Dalit youths in Gujarat for skinning a dead cow, the Centre on Wednesday said the state government had taken “swift and effective” action against the culprits and announced a compensation of Rs five lakh for the victims.
Strongly condemning the incident, home minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “very sad and hurt” after he came to know of the incident and hit back at Congress citing the data on incidents of atrocities under its rule.
The government was ready to debate in both the Houses of Parliament, he said and accused the Congress of not being serious in addressing the issue of atrocities on Dalits.
He cited figures to claim that cases of atrocities against Dalits have declined in the state after 2001 when Narendra Modi took over as chief minister, and commended the state government for its “swift and effective” action.
He was speaking after the issue was raised in both houses of the Parliament by many opposition parties including BSP and Congress, which staged a walkout along with TMC in Lok Sabha.
“It is an unfortunate incident. No words are enough to condemn it but it is not the first time that such atrocities have been committed.
“There is no place for such actions in a society which supports justice and equality... to target the most deprived and exploited sections. In fact we need to protect them in every possible way,” Singh later said outside Parliament.
Asked about walkout by Congress, Singh said it showed that Congress was not serious about the issue.
The Gujarat government, the minister said, was planning to have a special court for the trial in the case. “I congratulate the state government for its swift and effective action.”
Social justice minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot said that state authorities have arrested 17 people so far in this incident.
“The state government was very fast in taking all the necessary action in this case. And so far 17 people have been arrested. Cases have also been registered against them. As far as my ministry is concerned, we will provide Rs 5 lakh compensation to the affected Dalit families,” Gehlot told reporters here.
On July 11, a few Dalit youths were allegedly assaulted in Una in Gir-Somnath district of Gujarat for skinning a dead cow.
In aftermath of this attack, the state has witnessed violent protests in which a head constable was killed and state transport buses attacked. Some members of the Dalit community also allegedly attempted suicide.
Speaking on the issue, information and broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu said the state government has been taking all necessary steps in this case and alleged that “Congress is shedding crocodile tears on this issue and haven’t done anything for Dalits so far”.
Talking to reporters, BSP chief Mayawati said “Only BSP is concerned about Dalits. While parties like Congress along with BJP try to suppress this issues.”
The opposition alleged that the attack was “sponsored” by BJP and RSS to polarise communities ahead of next year’s assembly polls but the Home Minister rejected the charge.
“No government in India has done so much for the poor and Dalits as the Modi government has,” Rajnath Singh claimed as he spoke about schemes like Jan Dhan and Start-up India aimed at their financial inclusion.
“I am not talking about atrocities against Dalits in Haryana. I have all details. You seemed to have made up your mind to walk out,” he said before reeling out figures of such cases during the UPA government to make his point.
Citing National Crime Records Bureau figures, he said they were over 32,000 incidents in 2004, 38,000 in 2008 and 37,000 in 2009 as he rejected the Congress claim that BJP was behind such incidents.
“I request all political parties to commit themselves to eradication of such atrocities,” the home minister said.
It was an irony that such incidents targeting the weaker section were happening so many years after the country’s independence. “This is a social problem. It is a social evil,” Singh said.