Discrimination and atrocities against Dalits are a national shame. They constitute a major social challenge for all Indians, irrespective of region, religion, caste and political affiliation.
Of paramount importance is putting an end to any kind of social scourge, not the scoring of political brownie points; the Congress and some opposition friends are, unfortunately, trying to derive political mileage and vitiating the atmosphere by whipping up social tensions in the wake of the heinous incident at Una in Gujarat.
Following the dastardly atrocity, where four Dalit youth were brutally assaulted, the Gujarat government not only arrested 16 accused but filed cases under various sections, including the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. It also approached the high court for setting up a designated court to ensure speedy trial of the case.
The BJP leadership also acted swiftly in connection with the despicable remarks made by a former Uttar Pradesh party leader against BSP leader Mayawati. He was expelled from the party; this was in contrast to the manner in which the BJP’s opponents, including a BSP leader, reacted by abusing the expelled leader’s family, particularly his minor daughter, who was traumatised.
Some parties are also making it appear as if the atrocities are happening because of the NDA government at the Centre, while it is a well-known fact that law and order is a state subject. To lend a sense of perspective to this discourse, it may be relevant to point out that atrocities against SCs have declined under BJP rule in Gujarat as compared to when the Congress was in power. In 1994, the number of cases against Dalits stood at 1,916, while there has been a steady decline after the BJP came to power.
How opportunistic is it, then, that some of the opposition parties are trying to reap political dividends over the Gujarat and UP incidents. By treating them as mere vote-banks, these political parties are causing incalculable harm to the Dalit cause.
Why did the Congress, which was at the helm for over 50 years, fail to remove social inequities? Is it not disservice of the worst kind to be treating Dalits as mere vote-banks instead of working towards their social empowerment? The Congress has to answer the people of this country on this count.
Through their crass display of myopic politics, some parties are magnifying the Gujarat incident and defaming the Modi government. Do they realise the damage being inflicted by this attempt at political one-upmanship?
The irony of this kind of political opportunism becomes all the more glaring when one finds that Uttar Pradesh (8,066 cases) and Bihar (7,874), are among the top states as far as crimes against SCs were recorded. It is also pertinent to note that 113 Dalits were killed in Bathe, Miyanpur and Bathanitola when Lalu Prasad Yadav was the chief minister. All the accused were later acquitted.
The lip-service being paid by these two leaders to the Dalit cause stands exposed by recent reports that not a single Dalit found a place in the list of 90 law officers appointed by the Bihar government.
Since the suicide of a student in the University of Hyderabad, politicians have made beelines, had photo opportunities and tried to obtain political capital out of such unfortunate incidents. And surprisingly, Congress leaders have never bothered to visit states they have ruled in the aftermath of any Dalit-related incident. Just before the Kerala elections, a Dalit law student was brutally raped and murdered at Perumbavoor; curiously, till there was a massive public outcry, no action was initiated by the then Congress-led government. This alone speaks volumes of their sincerity and commitment for the uplift and well-being of Dalits. In the case of UP, the SP and BSP have been ruling alternately for several years but that has hardly made any significant difference as far as curbing of crimes against Dalits is concerned.
The country would not have witnessed unsavoury incidents like the one in Una had the Congress ensured that justice was rendered in every case through effective implementation of laws; had bridged the gap between the rich and poor and had worked for reducing economic and social disparities.
It has become a habit for some of these parties to rake up some issue before elections and try to defame the NDA government on one pretext or the other. Just before Bihar elections, the attacks on churches in Delhi were blown out of proportion; they later turned out to be robbery cases. People suspect that they are doing it now with an eye on the elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
Some of the political critics of the NDA government also have no hesitation in sympathising with the supporters of Afzal Guru, Yakub Memon, Maqbool Bhatt and terrorist Burhan Wani. Irrespective of these attempts to defame the BJP, the NDA government, under the stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is fully committed to the upliftment of SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and other weaker sections. It will remain fully focused on development and welfare. To cite an example, the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Antyodaya Yojana is one of the different flagship schemes that seeks to improve the livelihoods of the poor through skill development.
The poor have started feeling that the prime minister is their messiah and hope. It should be noted that the largest number of MPs belonging to SCs, STs and OBCs are in the BJP. The time has come for all political parties to strive towards bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots and eradicate social evils. This can be achieved if they place the interests of the nation above narrow political interests.
Hindu society as a whole should also seriously introspect and see that social evils are fully eradicated. No person who discriminates against another human being could ever be called a Hindu. Besides, conversions are also no solution as some of the converted have been complaining of discrimination in those religions too.
The time has come for putting an end to negative and vote-bank politics and strive for all-round emancipation of Dalits. I appeal to all political parties to cooperate with the government in emancipation of the downtrodden through multi-pronged strategies and good governance.
(This article first appeared in the print edition under the headline ”The culprits of Una”)
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