An RSS-affiliated Dalit group will launch a four-month rural outreach programme on Friday ahead of Gujarat Assembly elections. Bharatiya Bauddha Sangh president Bhante Sanghpriya Rahul said that they wanted to bridge gaps between communities and “clear the misconception” that the RSS and BJP are anti-Dalit. He added that Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani would flag off the Dalit rath yatra on June 30, a year after the flogging of Dalits in Una triggered protests.
“There are many hate mongers who do not agree with BJP’s policies and have been trying to malign the image of the party and RSS by levelling false accusations about atrocities on Dalits. Incidents like Una have damaged the BJP’s image because people with vested interests are blaming the party… there is no bigger supporter of the Dalits than the RSS and BJP,” said Rahul, who led a similar campaign ahead of Uttar Pradesh elections.
Rahul said the yatra would conclude in Somnath in October in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. “I have met Ram Nath Kovind, who will be elected as President, to seek his support in inviting heads of states that follow Buddhism. ”
Rahul added that they would reach out to communities that practice untouchability. “We have prepared a list of some villages, where the divide between Dalit and upper caste is glaring,’’ he said. “…a village, Chaudhary Vasna, in Gandhinagar district has a separate cremation ground for Dalits. When we visit villages like these… we will invite leaders of upper caste communities to join us in bringing people together…,” he said.
Rahul claimed that the outreach has no political motives. “We are conducting these rallies in many states.’’ He said their aim is to stop Dalits “from being misled by Christian and Islamic forces’’. He said Buddhism and Hinduism are two religions born in India and Dalits can follow either. “We will warn them against being enticed by Christians and Islamic groups…’’ he said.