EVEN AS the Congress on Wednesday criticised the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh over attacks on Dalits in Saharanpur, there is disquiet within over what many leaders believe is the party’s “failure” to recognise the enormity of the issue and respond politically. Questions are also being raised on why Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has not visited Saharanpur so far.
Several Congress leaders on Wednesday said the party should have taken up the incidents of violence in Saharanpur much more aggressively. “We lost the (UP) election, and lost it very badly, but we cannot disengage with such issues,” a senior party leader said. Uttar Pradesh Congress president Raj Babbar did visit Saharanpur but that “did not have much effect”, the leader pointed out.
The Congress on Wednesday fielded the party’s Scheduled Caste department head, K Raju, to take on the BJP-led government in UP. He said Dalits are being attacked more because “certain section of society in Uttar Pradesh believe that with Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister, they have got the licence to indulge in hooliganism, the licence to oppress Dalits, commit atrocities.” He said, “They (community members involved in the aggression) are confident that law will not be initiated against them, because they think the CM will provide them all necessary protection.”
The Congress demanded the arrest of all accused, setting up of a special court for speedy trial and action against administration and police officials and the district magistrate for their “failure to prevent” such incidents. The UP government on Wednesday suspended the DM and SSP of Saharanpur.
Raju said, “The administration should understand they are duty-bound to immediately provide relief, rehabilitation and compensation to Dalit victims as provided under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989, as amended in 2015. Special public prosecutors have to be appointed and chargesheet against the accused be filed within 60 days of the incident. Also, the special court has to deliver the judgment within 120 days,” Raju said.
Rahul had visited Una after Dalit youths were flogged in the Gujarat town in July last year, allegedly by a group of self-proclaimed cow vigilantes. He had also gone to Hyderabad, participated in a candlelight march and a day-long hunger strike organised by students to mark Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula’s birth anniversary.