The Bhatiya Janta Party (BJP) may not have expected that the recent protests by members of Dalit community in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh will become a headache for the party which is eyeing to woo the voters ahead of assembly elections in UP and other states in 2017.
The shock came on Sunday after the state party leaders failed to fill even a hall in Agra where it was welcoming its Dhamma Chetra Yatra. BJP’s state president Keshav Prasad Maurya was also present at the event in which he attacked BSP and SP.
Party’s national President Amit Shah was also scheduled to attend the event but it was cancelled just two days before. While the party leaders said the reason was a change in venue, there were speculations that the decision was taken as there were chances of Shah facing protests from the Dalit community at the event.
Where it all began
BJP’s problems began earlier in July when a video of four Dalit youth being stripped and flogged at Gujarat’s Una went viral on the internet. The state being a stronghold of Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited harsher criticism from opposition parties who claimed that this was the real ‘Gujarat model’ under which minority communities were persecuted and tortured.
However, BJP failed to understand the intensity of protests this time and it grew bigger in a short period. The protests spread rapidly to other parts of the state, sometimes taking a violent turn. Withing 10 days of the incident, one policeman had lost his life and a number of state transport buses were torched by angry mob as the protests reached capital Ahmedabad.
Unique way of protest
In an unprecedented manner, the community members started dumping carcasses of cows outside government offices asking ‘Gau Rakshak’ to dispose off the dead animals. The Dalits, who have primarily been involved in work of skinning dead animals refused to continue with it posing a serious problem for the administration and sendint out a robust message.
Since then, Dalits from various parts in the state have refused to skin dead cows putting the entire burden on local municipalities and administration. More than 5,000 protesters marched in a rally in Ahmedabad on Sunday. On the other hand, several youth consumed poison claiming lives of two, one of whom died on July 31.
Congress’ Rahul Gandhi and AAP’s Arvind Kerjiwal also rushed to Una after the incident. Meanwhile, a loose comment by BJP’s Uttar Pradesh former vice-president comparing BSP supremo Mayawati with a prostitute gave the protests a complete anti-BJP color.
The party took immediate action and suspended Dayashankar, the leader in question, from all the posts.
While Mayawati and other opposition leaders cornered BJP in Parliament over the issue, thousands took to streets in the state raising anti-BJP slogans.
However, these videos of atrocities against minorities in the name of ‘cow protection’ is only going to put BJP on a backfoot and put a dent in its Dalit support base ahead of elections in UP and Punjab.
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