With the opposition keeping up pressure on the issue of MoS Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti’s “ramzaadon” versus “haramzaadon” remark, the BJP seems to be playing the caste card to get the Parliamentary proceedings back on track. In the Rajya Sabha on Friday, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi criticised the opposition for not accepting the apologies of a Dalit woman.
Interestingly, Jyoti’s caste — Nishad/Mallah — is not included in the list of schedule castes for Uttar Pradesh, the state from which she was elected to the 16th Lok Sabha. Jyoti won from Fatehpur Lok Sabha constituency, which is in the general pool. The list for UP, available on the website of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, includes 66 castes categorised as SCs in the state. Nishads do not figure in that list. The state had in 2013 moved a proposal to include 17 new castes in the SC list, including Nishads, but that has not been notified till date. Currently, Nishads in UP are in the OBC list. The caste is not included in the SC list in Naqvi’s home state of Bihar either.
However, in Delhi, Mallahs are on the list.
On Friday, even as the deputy chairman maintained that allowing a condemnation resolution is the prerogative of the government, Naqvi sought to use the Dalit card to resolve the imbroglio. “… A Dalit woman came here, expressed her regrets, sought forgiveness. Even after that, arrogance and anarchy that is on display… the way they are stalling House proceedings… there are issues that concern the country, issues of development…”
Incidentally, the opposition joint statement on a condemnation motion on hate speeches was signed, among others, by BSP chief Mayawati, whose party has always sought to position itself as the protector of Dalit interests.
“BJP is saying that she is a Dalit woman and this is untrue. The minister neither belongs to the Dalit community, nor does she hail from scheduled caste community. She is from the backward Nishad caste,” Mayawati said. Other Dalit leaders, too, slammed the PM over his statement that Jyoti’s statement should be seen keeping her background in mind. “Maybe Naqvi was confused, maybe the caste is listed in the SC list in his own state Bihar. But I take strong objection to the PM’s statement that her background should be kept in mind. It is derogatory, an attempt to run her down. It is not in good taste, does not behove the PM of the country,” said Congress MP Kumari Selja.