BJP says it’s the only pro-Dalit party, accuses Congress and BSP of stoking violence
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BJP says it’s the only pro-Dalit party, accuses Congress and BSP of stoking violence

Violent protests during a ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by several Dalit groups on April 2 left at least 11 people dead. The protests sparked a war of words between the BJP and opposition parties.

india Updated: Apr 08, 2018 22:54 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Dalits,Dalit protests,BJP
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad holds a press conference in New Delhi.(ANI Photo)

Two union ministers on Sunday accused the Congress and other opposition parties of supporting violence for political gains, as they reiterated government’s commitment to reservation, saying the BJP was a pro-Dalit party.

The comments came on the eve of a one-day fast announced by Congress president Rahul Gandhi to “protect and promote communal harmony and against caste violence”.

“Dr Amebdkar said Dalit movement will not and should not be violent… we allege that the Congress, SP and BSP are trying to vitiate the environment by supporting violence in a planned manner,” law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, invoking Dalit icon Bhim Rao Ambedkar.

Eleven people were killed in clashes during a nationwide strike called by Dalit groups on April 2 against the alleged dilution of a law that protect scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs).

“Rahul Gandhi is adding fuel to fire… Rahul should fast, but he should not spread lies (about ending reservation),” Prasad said.

“... what kind of a statement is this that attempts are being made to end reservation….there will be no compromise, ever, on the issue of reservation to SCs, STs, and OBCs (other backward classes),” Prasad said.

The Opposition has accused the government of remaining a mute spectator after the Supreme Court on March 20 banned immediate arrests under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The government has filed a review petition that is pending with the court, which refused to stay the verdict that triggered the protest.

In Madhya Pradesh, violence was reported from pockets with a strong presence of the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party and in Rajasthan where the Congress had tasted electoral success recently, Prasad said.

Eight people died in Madhya Pradesh and a man was killed in Rajasthan in the April 2 violence

Social justice minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, the BJP’s most prominent Dalit face, said Ambedkar and BSP founder Kanshi Ram never supported violent protests. “Opposition should play a positive role, instead of negative,” Gehlot said.

Not just the Opposition, some Dalit MPs of the BJP, too, have expressed concern over the SC order and the alleged crackdown against those who participated in the April 2 strike.

“We will talk to our MPs. If there is any concern or suggestion, we will take them on board,” Prasad said.

The two ministers also listed a series of measures taken by the Modi government to strengthen the SC/ST act and empower Dalits.

Parties like the Congress and the BSP did nothing for Dalits and at times even worked against their interests, they alleged.

The BJP’s charge was that the matter was being politicised as Prime Minister Narendra Modi came from a poor family and the BJP had the largest number of Dalit and tribal MPs and MLAs.

First Published: Apr 08, 2018 20:15 IST