Dalit protests politically motivated, says minister Thawar Chand Gehlot
Dubbing the violence that broke out on Monday, during a nationwide protest as “politically motivated”, Union minister of social justice and empowerment Thaawarchand Gehlot said it was during the BJP’s tenure that the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 was passed, amendments made to strengthen it and now a review petition has been filed in the Supreme Court to ensure the provisions are not diluted.
On Monday, Dalit groups — angered over an alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act — carried out violent protests across several northern states, even as the Centre moved the Supreme Court seeking a review of its March 20 judgment in the matter.
The minister added that the government will also take the “necessary steps or legal recourse if needed” to roll back a new quota system for the appointment of faculty in universities, announced by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
In the wake of the violence that led to several cases of arson and destruction of property, BSP leader Mayawati accused the government of “taking time” to file the review petition, but Gehlot defended the government’s stance, pointing out that it had assured people that it would take legal recourse.
“Soon after the SC judgment came on March 20, I assured people that the government would take the necessary steps. We consulted the law ministry on what legal action could be taken, and because there were four holidays in between, the petition could only be filed on Monday,” Gehlot said.
He went on to add: “I had urged people to call off the protest; and in case it was not possible to withdraw then ensure that only peaceful protest is carried out. There are some political parties are in the forefront of these protests, it is visible.”
The minister said the protests are being stoked by political parties, which are wary of the marginalised sections moving towards the BJP, which has the “maximum number of MPs and MLAs from these sections”.
“Truth comes out… It can’t be hidden for long. It will be like the protests that happened in the run up to the objections to the film Padmavat. Those who opposed the film eventually came out to say they have no objections. After the review petition these people will realise that they were mistaken,” he said.
The minister also termed Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s comment that “…it is in the DNA of the RSS/BJP to keep Dalits at the lowest level in Indian society” as specious and said that during the Congress rule no steps were taken for the benefit of the communities.
“Why did the Congress not come up with the PoA Act when they were in power? It was during the tenure of the VP Singh government that was supported by the BJP, that this law was made. Then there was the demand to make amendments to the law, because of certain flaws, but the Congress did not do anything, it was again, the BJP government that strengthened the law in 2016,” the minister said.