BJP, Centre reach out to Dalits after protests over SC/ST Act, slam Congress
The BJP and the Centre on Tuesday reached out to Dalits in the aftermath of their violent protests asserting that at every juncture they stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the community and accused the Congress of fuelling tension in the society with an eye on elections.
The remarks by BJP president Amit Shah and Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Thavarchand Gehlot expressing their commitment to protect the interests of the Dalit and the tribal community came even as Congress chief Rahul Gandhi hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “not uttering a word” on dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Dalit protests against the softening of the provisions of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by the Supreme Court erupted in large-scale violence in different parts of the country on Monday leaving nine dead, many injured and property worth crores destroyed. Several Dalit organisations had given a call for ‘Bharat Bandh’.
In a series of tweets, Shah said a “microscopic minority of dejected and rejected political parties” made the people suffer and sought their apology to “Dalit sisters and brothers”.
He also blamed “vested interest groups” for spreading the panic on the issue of reservation for Dalits, saying it is done before every election and asserted that the government will do everything to protect their rights.
Right from the day the apex court gave its judgment on the SC/ST atrocities act, the central government acted in an “immediate and informed” manner and has filed an effective review petition to protect the Dalits’ rights, Shah said.
He pointed out that Prime Minister Modi had met MPs belonging to the Scheduled Castes and had assured them that the government was doing everything to protect the rights and wellbeing of “our Dalit sisters and brothers.”
“Due to the politically driven manifestations of a microscopic minority of dejected and rejected political parties, crores of innocent people suffered. These parties owe our Dalit sisters and brothers an apology for their misdeeds,” he said.
Shah, whose party has often accused the opposition of fuelling unfounded campaign against it before elections, said the script had now become old and that vested interest groups started spreading panic about reservations before polls.
The BJP is locked in a keen fight with the Congress in the Karnataka assembly elections, scheduled for May 12.
“The BJP’s stand is clear, which I am once again stating - we fully believe in the Constitution given by Babasaheb and the rights it has given to the SC/ST communities. At every juncture and in all possible ways, the BJP stands shoulder to shoulder with the Dalit community,” he said.
Gahlot claimed that history suggests it is the Congress which is anti-Dalit and treated them like a vote bank. “You are trying to make political benefit by fuelling tensions in society but it is not good. You are doing so with an eye on elections.”
Making a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha during the Zero Hour amid ruckus in the House, Home Minister Rajnath Singh made it clear it was not responsible for the dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and asserted it was fully committed to protect the interests of the backward communities. He also appealed to the people to maintain peace and harmony.
“I wish to inform the House that the Government of India was not party in that case. Through the House, I want to assure the people that there has been no dilution whatsoever by my government, rather after coming to power and examining the SC/ST prevention Atrocities Act, we have taken a decision to strengthen it,” he said.
Singh said there have been widespread rumours on the issue of reservation which were “false and baseless” and the government was fully committed to protect the interests of the SC/ST communities.
“I wish to assure you that our government is fully committed to the welfare of SCs and STs. Our government is fully committed to protect the interest of the SC/ST community,” he added.
Rahul Gandhi hit out at Modi while addressing a public meeting in Shivamogga on the fifth leg of his tour of poll-bound Karnataka.
“Rohit Vemula is murdered. Dalits are beaten up in Una (Gujarat) but the prime minister does not speak a word on it. Atrocities on Dalits and tribals are increasing and the SC/ST act has been diluted. Modi prefers not to speak a word,” he said.