As the Maratha community continues to flex its muscles against Dalits demanding the repeal of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, the Dalit leadership seems to be divided on how to counter the issue.
While Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar has urged Dalits not to resort to any counter-protests which could lead to communal friction in Maharashtra, his counterpart Union minister Ramdas Athawale has announced three counter protest marches.
These marches are aimed at protesting the demands made by the Maratha community to repeal the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Caste and Tribes Act framed by the Union government in 1989. The Act was introduced to help the backward classes get a foothold into mainstream society but the Maratha community has been alleging that the Act is being misused for political purpose or to settle personal scores.
They even organised massive street marches recently asserting that the time has come to take note of their demands.
Prakash Ambedkar, who heads BRP-Bahujan Mahasangh appealed to the Dalits to not worry \about the Maratha morchas. “Initially the morchas by Maratha community was restricted to demanding justice for the Kopardi victim but slowly it has taken the turn demanding the scrapping the Prevention of Atrocities Act. Dalits should not be carried away by this and refrain from any counter morchas,” said Ambedkar.
Another prominent Dalit leader Jogendra Kawade, who heads the Peoples Republican Party, also opposed any counter marches. “There is no need to panic as this Act falls under the Union government and cannot be repealed so easily. These Maratha morchas have vested interests and political backing,” said Kawade.
Athawale, however, is not convinced and said that Dalits are living under a cloud of due to the Maratha morches. “The morchas are all aimed at scrapping the Act and like them even we have the right to protest,” said Athawale, one of the most influential Dalit leader in the state. He has also announced protest marches at three places across the state.