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Rahul Gandhi says PM Modi has ‘anti-Dalit mindset’, BJP hits back

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi joined a protest over the dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2018 22:47 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi,PM Modi,Anti-Dalit
File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. (Ajay Aggarwal/HT Photo)

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Thursday charged Prime Minister Narendra Modi with having an “anti-Dalit” mindset, alleging that Dalits were being “beaten and crushed” in states where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power, and drew an immediate riposte from the ruling party .

Addressing a protest over the dilution of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, Gandhi asserted that his party will fight for an India where there is a place for everybody.

Attacking Modi, he said, “His thinking is anti-Dalit. All Dalits and people from the weaker sections know that the Prime Minister has no place for Dalits in his heart and mind and wants to crush Dalits. That is why we are standing against him.”

Exchanges between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Congress have become increasingly bitter as they head towards a string of state elections later this year leading up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Both are projecting themselves as championing the cause of Dalits.

BJP President Amit Shah was quick to hit back, advising Gandhi to give “some time to facts” and accused the Congress of treating Dalits with a “patronising and condescending” attitude.

“Rahulji, when you are free from winking and disrupting Parliament, give some time to facts as well. NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government, through a cabinet decision and in Parliament, ensured the strongest amendment to the act. Why are you protesting that?” Shah said in a series of tweets.

On Thursday, the Rajya Sabha passed the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill 2018 to overturn a Supreme Court order in March that banning automatic arrests and registration of cases under the law. The Lok Sabha passed the bill earlier this week.

Paul Divakar, a civil rights activist, said the BJP seems to have introduced the amended bill with an eye on the elections. “The government should have ensured that the SC/ST law was included in the ninth schedule to protect it from future judicial interventions. Otherwise it seems like appeasement before elections.”

As for the Congress, he said the party should monitor and ensure that the law is the implementation on the ground.

Gandhi said the law was enacted when his father Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister.

“But the act was allowed to be diluted by Modiji. And the judge who diluted it was given a promotion,” he said, referring to the appointment of Justice AK Goel as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) chairman.

In a March 20 ruling, justice Goel and justice UU Lalit had laid down stringent safeguards, including provisions for anticipatory bail and a preliminary enquiry before registering a case under the Act, citing instances of its abuse for political or personal reasons.

The ruling had angered Dalits. On July 6, justice Goel retired from the Supreme Court and on the same day, he was appointed as NGT chairman.

In his speech, Gandhi said the amended act was not enough to protect the interests of the Dalits.

“Dalits are being openly beaten and crushed in states where the BJP is in power. We don’t want an India like this. We want an India in which there should be place for everybody, whether Dalits, poor, tribals or minorities... everybody should progress. We will fight for such an India,” he said.

“If Modiji had space for Dalits in his heart, then the policies for Dalits would have been different,” the Congress chief said.

Shah countered, “Would have been good if Congress president would have spoken about his party’s treatment towards Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Babu Jagjivan Ram and Sitaram Kesari. Congress way of treating Dalits is patronising and condescending. For years Congress insulted Dalit aspirations.”

He said, “Is it a coincidence that the year Sonia Gandhi joined the Congress, the Third Front-Congress government opposed reservations in promotions and the year Rahul Gandhi becomes Congress President, they oppose a tough SC/ST Act and OBC (bother backward classes) Commission! Anti-backward mindset visible.”

In another tweet, Shah said, “Mr Rahul Gandhi, expecting research and honesty is difficult from you but do read Mr Rajiv Gandhi’s speech during Mandal, when he opposed it tooth and nail. The sense of entitlement and hatred for backward communities comes out so clearly. And today you talk about Dalit welfare!”

The reference was to the report of the Mandal commission whose recommendations were accepted in the late 1980, setting apart quotas in government jobs and university admissions for other backward classes.

First Published: Aug 09, 2018 14:51 IST