Athawale postpones Dalit-Maratha meet after Nashik violence | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Athawale postpones Dalit-Maratha meet after Nashik violence

The much-publicised Dalit-Maratha unity convention, a brainchild of Union minister Ramdas Athawale, scheduled next week has come to a naught as situation in Nashik continues to be tense.

mumbai Updated: Oct 16, 2016 00:31 IST
Naresh Kamath
The sexual assault of a five-year-old girl allegedly by a Dalit youth has forced Athawale to postpone the convention in Shirdi.
The sexual assault of a five-year-old girl allegedly by a Dalit youth has forced Athawale to postpone the convention in Shirdi.(Hindustan Times)

The much-publicised Dalit-Maratha unity convention, a brainchild of Union minister Ramdas Athawale, scheduled next week has come to a naught as situation in Nashik continues to be tense.

The sexual assault of a five-year-old girl allegedly by a Dalit youth has forced Athawale to postpone the convention in Shirdi which is in the vicinity of Trimabeshwar where the incident took place.

The convention was an effort by the Republican Party of India (RPI-A), which is headed by Athawale, to bridge the gap between Dalits and Marathas. He has supported Marathas’ demand for reservation.

Besides the incident, another consternation point is the Scheduled Caste and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as Marathas allege its misuse by Dalits and tribals.

However, Athawale, who is the Union minister of state for social justice, played down the issue, saying the programme was being postponed owing to the absence of leaders from other political parties.

“I had extended an invitation to all major leaders to attend the convention. They had initially agreed but have now backed out due to various reasons,” said Athawale.

Athawale, who was in Nashik this week and met the victims’ family, rued that although the RPI (A) has never supported any Dalits indulging in criminal acts, the recent incidents have unnerved the community. “We don’t differentiate on basis of caste and even if the accused is a Dalit, we will never support him,” he said, adding, “For years, we have faced the brunt of caste violence, but never targeted any community.”

This is the second time Athawale had made a U-turn on the programme. Earlier, he had announced three morchas to counter the Maratha community but backed out at the last moment. The Maratha protests have sweeping the state since a minor victim from the Maratha community was allegedly raped and brutally killed by Dalits at Kopardi village in Ahmednagar district in July this year. Kopardi residents prevented Dalit leaders such as Ramdas Athawale and Prakash Ambedkar from visiting the village to meet the victims, though both vociferously condemned the incident.