Dalit social reformers, writers and academicians are planning a conclave next week to discuss the unrest within the community sparked by the recent Maratha rallies. Community leaders have appealed to the Dalit youth not to take to the streets to counter the Marathas demanding the scrapping of The SC And The ST (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act.
Noted Dalit writer Arjun Dangle told The Indian Express, “I sense a dangerous move to create caste polarisation and vitiate social harmony in Maharashtra. But we will work to ensure that neither the innocent Marathas, whose concerns regarding employment and education are genuine, nor the Dalits who wish the Atrocities Act to stay in place, are made sacrificial lambs.”
The author of the well-known book on Dalit atrocities, ‘Poisoned Bread’, said the Maratha protests were political.
“These rallies are attempts by Congress and NCP leaders to display their might covertly. Being out of power, and with their traditional hold over established cooperative sectors and banks shaky because of corruption allegations,
these leaders are trying to assert their politics by evoking the caste card,” Dangle said.
“The Kopardi rape incident is being used as a tool to destabilise the government by fomenting Maratha versus Dalit tensions. Otherwise, why would they train guns on an Act that is helpful to Dalits?,” the author said.
Dangle said they are not against reservation to Marathas. “All Dalit leaders, including me, have already supported the Maratha reservation, as I believe there are sizeable sections within the community who are economically backward and should be given employment and education concessions. But the demand should be raised at constitutional, legal and legislature forums.”
Dalit thinkers and leaders are trying to send a message to the community to not get provoked by the Maratha rallies or the ongoing ‘hate campaign’ on social media, Dangle said.
“Countering Maratha rallies with Dalit rallies is not the solution. Such reactions can prove detrimental to the unity of a progressive state like Maharashtra and affect the poor and innocent people from both the communities,” he said.
Union minister of social justice and Republican Party of India chief Ramdas Athawale and Bharipbahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar too have been cautioning Dalits from taking to the streets at their political meetings.
Athawale said, “The Atrocities Act is meant to protect the weaker sections in society from exploitation. But we don’t support its misuse by Dalits or others. Provisions to tackle the problem should be strengthened.”
The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries president Milind Kamble said, “Today, development is the central theme where political leadership at the Centre and the states cannot ignore any community. Whether it is the Marathas or Dalits, development in this global age has to be inclusive.”