Updated: April 4, 2018 3:15:27 am
While Union ministers on Tuesday pointed fingers at Opposition parties for protests during Monday’s Bharat bandh spiralling out of control at places, Dalit outfits that organised the bandh maintained that the Centre is to be blamed for its failure to protect the basic rights of Dalit and Adivasi people to carry our peaceful protest.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alluded that the Opposition may have abetted violence and pointed out that the BJP-governed states were the worst-hit. “The surrounding circumstances were too suspicious,” PTI quoted Prasad as saying.
Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawarchand Gehlot blamed the Congress and the BSP for “provoking” protesters. “The incidents that have happened in the wake of yesterday’s bandh show that Opposition parties have, instead of taking a positive role, played a negative role. They provoked SC, ST and other people, leading to rioting and casualty,” he said.
Both ministers also dismissed charges that the government delayed taking a stand on filing a review petition in Supreme Court against the court’s order on the SC/ST Act. “Where is the delay,” Prasad asked, according to PTI. “Let me ask Rahul Gandhi…did he appeal for peace and calm yesterday? There is tension in the country and Congress is trying to fuel it.”
Gehlot said, “I had very early conveyed that we will file a review petition. Opposition parties too should have told people to end the andolan until the Supreme Court’s final order on the matter. Instead, political parties, mainly Congress (and) BSP, were part of the rallies, worsening the situation.”
Minister of State Ramdas Athawale, however, called the protests a spontaneous act by different Dalit organisations. “The SC first gave directives against reservations in promotion. Dalits and Adivasis were already angry about it. When the recent order came diluting the Atrocities Act, Dalits took to the streets to protest. There was no single party or organisation behind it. It is not an act against the government.”
Taking on Congress, he said, “Seven people are dead but the Congress is politicising the issue.” K Ananda Rao of All-India Dalit Rights Federation, one of the organisers of the bandh, said, “The BJP, RSS, and Bajrang Dal are to be blamed for whatever violence occurred during our protests.”
Balwinder Singh of Jan Samman Party said, “In Rajasthan, ring-wing Karni Sena was responsible for pelting stones at peaceful protesters. It was the government’s duty to give us security for the march but as usual they failed us…. If all our demands for strengthening the Act are not met by August 15, over 10 lakh Bahujans will assemble in Delhi to raise voice against this government.”
Athawale reiterated his earlier stand about extending 25 per cent reservation to the economically backward among Savarnas (caste Hindus) without touching the existing 49.5 per cent reservation for SC, ST and OBCs. Stating that he has discussed this issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said, “I will also write to the PM and ask him to release the caste census data — doing so will not increase casteism in any way.”
The NDA government is yet to make public the caste census data even as it released the data on rural and urban socio-economic indicators more than two years ago.
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