Various upper castes organisations protested against the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act. LJP had aggressively demanded restoration of provisions in the Act. How do you see this changed scenario from Dalits’ protest to a protest by upper castes?
This Act came into existence in 1989 and more clauses were added to strengthen it in 2015. In the past 30 years, six Prime Ministers led governments and Narendra Modi is the seventh, but in these years nobody raised in Parliament that the Act was being misused. By passing the amendment, the NDA government did nothing new but restored the Act. Untouchability is still prevailing. Atrocties are still happening. I had repeatedly said the government was not anti-Dalit but such a perception was created. I had asserted the perception will be changed. Now it has changed in a way that government is not being called anti-dalit but anti-upper caste.
How do you see this agitation of upper castes?
Everyone has the right to express their opinion. People of upper castes are intellectuals and they have done maximum work for social equality. Lord Buddha was not a Dalit. Vivekananda was Kayastha but he advocated giving rights to Shudras. Dayanand Saraswati was Brahmin and he fought against superstitions. V P Singh was Kshatriya and he spent his life for the downtrodden. They were all from upper castes. There should be positive thoughts to uplift the poor and the backward. We are committed to growth of all castes and minorities.
Do you see any political hand behind these protests?
There is a political conspiracy. Congress and other Opposition parties are behind it. If there is no conspiracy, why are heads of Opposition parties not saying anything? When Dalits staged a protest, Congress, BSP and SP supported it. Today, why are they silent? Why isn’t Mayawati codemning this. A Congress spokesperson recently said Brahmin is in the blood of Congress. Why is Rahul Gandhi silent on the demonstration today? Those who had raised slogans that Modi government is anti-Dalit and anti-OBC should clear their stand on this agitation.
But there are apprehensions that SC/ST Act is misused.
Every law is misused. It is the responsibility of the state government and the administration concerned to ensure that law is not misused. After the Supreme Court diluted the Act, atrocities against Dalits had increased.
Restoration of the Act could help LJP because Dalits are your support base. But what about upper caste votes of BJP?
Almost 95 per cent people in upper castes are politically advanced. They understand everything. They are aware that some parties are behind this. There will be no adverse impact on NDA.
What will you say you about the recent government order asking media to refrain from using the nomenclature Dalit and instead use “Scheduled Caste”?
Dalits were initially called untouchables. Later, Mahatma Gandhi gave the term “harijan”. Bhimrao Ambedkar called them SC/ST from the constitutional point of view. But the use of “Dalit” started in the meantime. Organisations like Dalit Panther and Dalit Sena were formed. This Dalit nomenclature has become an alternative of SCs. “Dalit” does not identify any particular caste. Those oppressed are Dalits. There should not be any debate on this. SC/ST should be used officially, but if one uses Dalit for daily dialogue, nothing wrong with that.