Prominent Dalit leader and junior social justice minister Ramdas Athawale on Tuesday blamed inter-caste love and marriages for growing atrocities on Dalits, and reiterated his demand for weapons to the lower castes for protection.
People from the upper castes cannot accept somebody from their community marrying a Dalit, said the president of the Republican Party of India (Athawale faction), a BJP ally, in an interview to Hindustan Times.
“Atyachar ka mool karan hain inter-caste love aur marriage … Yeh unko accha nahin lagta hain. Iske liye atyachar badh raha hain jyada. (The main reason for atrocities is inter-caste love and marriage. This is not liked by the upper caste. This has led to growing incidents of atrocity),” he said.
The Rajya Sabha parliamentarian, who was made the minister of state for social justice and empowerment when Prime Minister Narendra Modi recomposed his team on July 5, reaffirmed his pitch to allow Dalits to keep weapons for their defence.
“Maine bola tha self-protection ke liye hona chahiye. Theek baat hain. Hamare mantralay ko vichaar karna chahiye lekin yeh home department ka vishay hain. (I have said it should be for self-protection. This is right. My ministry should think about it. But it is an issue for the home department),” he said.
Athawale had said in January, after Hyderabad University Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s suicide, that the government should give Dalits licences to keep firearms for protection.
To make his point, he cited Sikh customs.
“The Sikhs have permission to keep arms. People are afraid to get into a fight (with Sikhs).”
At the same time, he underscored his ministry’s responsibility to bring communities together.
“It’s the home department’s mandate to act against atrocities. It is our ministry’s responsibility to see that atrocities do not occur, and suggest ways and means to protect them. I will speak to my senior minister (Thawar Chand Gehlot) and secretary to see what can be done.”
The 56-year-old Dalit leader from Maharashtra also batted for the longstanding demand for reservation in private-sector jobs. “As various sectors are getting privatised, government jobs are shrinking. That is why there should be no issue with providing quota in the private sector.”
He said reservation will only strengthen social justice. “Being a social justice minister, I will try to get it done. I will speak to the PM about it.”
Athawale also supported quotas within the reserved categories, saying “the condition of those from the extremely backward classes is worse”.
“There should be a separate reservation for them. They should be given additional 19% reservation. My ministry will also push for it,” he said.
But the minister admitted that this cannot be a long-term solution. “We have to find a way to improve their lives.”