As Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot drew fire from the Opposition as well as a section of his Congress over the death of a nine-year-old Dalit boy from Jalore, who was allegedly thrashed by his upper-caste teacher for drinking water from his pot, a slew of Dalit MLAs from the ruling party came out to back Gehlot, even as they blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for “fuelling” the row.
Distressed by the Dalit boy Indra Kumar Meghwal’s death, Congress MLA from Baran-Atru, Pana Chand Meghwal, had submitted his resignation to Assembly Speaker C P Joshi and the CM on Monday.
In the wake of Pana Chand’s resignation, 12 Congress councillors in the Baran Municipal Council also submitted their resignations Tuesday. Echoing the local party MLA’s outrage, the councillor from ward number 22, Urvashi Meghwal, told The Indian Express that following her conscience she was submitting her resignation over the boy’s death. Her resignation letter stated that “Dalits and the marginalised are being killed simply for drinking water from a pot, or for climbing atop a mare, or even for keeping a moustache. In the name of investigation, the files are sent back and forth to stall the judicial process.”
Speaking to the Express, several Dalit MLAs from the Congress, however, expressed their confidence in the CM.
Babulal, the Congress MLA from Alwar’s Kathumar, said that “resignation is not a solution,” accusing “upper caste BJP workers and supporters” of allegedly perpetrating caste-related atrocities. The four-time MLA called for a constitutional amendment to impose stricter penalties for “jaatiye nafrat (caste hatred)” and said, “I have been seeing it for decades. Until the state brings a stricter law or the Centre amends the Constitution, it won’t go away.”
On Gehlot’s measures to address caste atrocities, Babulal said that “the government is doing whatever it can but the BJP is hell-bent on vitiating the atmosphere”.
The Congress MLA from Chohtan, Padma Ram, said Pana Chand “expressed his emotions” but there was “nothing lacking” in the government’s actions. “When a person decides to commit a crime, it can happen anytime,” he said, adding that the government could not be present everywhere all the time.
Ganga Devi, the Congress MLA from Jaipur’s Bagru, lauded the Gehlot government, saying that “The government is doing whatever it can. What happened was wrong but the government took swift action, the accused has been arrested, ministers have reached the spot and we stand with the child’s family.”
The Congress MLA from Bharatpur’s Bayana, Amar Singh, claimed that be it the 2019 Thanagazi rape case, where a Dalit woman was raped in front of her husband, or the Jalore case, the Gehlot-led party government had been quick to take action.
Parasram Mordia, the Congress MLA from Sikar’s Dhod, too appreciated the Gehlot dispensation for taking prompt action but added that he will meet the CM over atrocities against Dalits in the state.
Meanwhile, after visiting the child’s family in his village in Jalore district Tuesday, Pana Chand expressed his satisfaction with the Gehlot government’s measures in the case so far, saying that he has spoken to the CM and ministers among others and felt that “their emotions and that of the Congress party are with the child’s family”. However, he remained non-committal on withdrawing his resignation.
On Monday, the Congress MLA and Rajasthan Commission for Scheduled Caste chairman, Khiladi Lal Bairwa, had also hit out at his own government over Indra’s death and criticised the police for ruling out the caste angle in it.