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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 31 New Delhi July 23, 2016

BJP’s Anti-Dalit Face Unmasked

Tuesday 26 July 2016, by SC



The BJP is clearly on the backfoot. Attacks on minorities and Dalits have recorded a steep rise ever since the BJP-led NDA Government (wherein the BJP enjoys absolute majority) was formed at the Centre in May 2014. Of late Dalits are on the march especially in Gujarat where members of a Dalit family were mercilessly flogged and paraded in Una for skinning a dead cow—the Gujarat bandh, called by Dalit groups to protest against such action by the cow vigilante outfits associated with the Sangh Parivar, was near total yesterday: as the news reports disclosed, “protesters forced closure of shops and establishments, halted rail and road traffic and attacked public transport,” according to The Indian Express.

The same newspaper further informed:

As the protests gathered momentum, another nine Dalits attempted suicide in Saurashtra since Tuesday (July 19) night—there have been 17 suicide bids so far.

In the wake of such an incident—this is not an isolated one but comes alongwith other similar incidents in the recent past—the Dalit psyche has been deeply hurt by the highly objectionable derogatory remarks by the BJP Vice-President in UP against BSP chief Mayawati. Speaking at a meeting in Mau where he was being felicitated by BJP workers, the person in question, Dayashankar Singh, while accusing the party supremo of selling BSP tickets, questioned Mayawati’s character and went on to say that her behaviour today was worse than that of a prostitute—which is why the followers of Kanshi Ram were deserting her.

Ek vaishya se bhi badtar charitra ki aaj Mayawatiji ho gayi hain. Isi liye Kanshi Ram ke karyakarta unke saath chhod kar ja rahe hain aur BSP samapt ho rahi hai.

This led to allround condemnation of the BJP leader in Parliament thereby compelling the Leader of the Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, to not merely express regrets over his party colleague’s remarks but also promise adequate steps against him. Thus Singh was removed from all the party posts he was holding in the State and even sacked, that is, expelled from the party. While Mayawati said she was satisfied in general with these steps by the ruling party at the Centre, she also added that it would have been better if the BJP would have gone to the extent of lodging an FIR against Singh under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. That was left to the BSP members to file.

A discussion on the issue in the Rajya Sabha today further recorded unanimous denunciation from all parties of Singh’s observations. The discussion also brought into focus the anti-Dalit sentiments voiced by leading figures in the BJP including a Union Minister who had equated Dalits with dogs (but for which no action was taken against him by the BJP High Command).

Alongside these incidents one was distressed to learn of the attempted demolition of the Ambedkar Bhavan (which came up in 1944) in Mumbai. Leading Dalit activists, including Babasaheb’s close relatives, were appalled as such a move coincided with the other anti-Dalit measures taken by both the party in power at the Centre as well as the BJP-led government in Maharashtra, not to speak of the reprehensible activities by the fringe elements linked to the party like the cow vigilantes in the various States (that resulted in the latest brutalities on those skinning cows in Gujarat besides the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq at Dadri for having allegedly stored beef in his fridge). As we go to press, news has come that obviously prodded by the BJP’s central leadership and stalwarts of the Union Government, the Maharashtra CM has categorically stated that the Ambedkar Bhavan will not be demolished.

Howsoever much the BJP leaders try to engage in damage control, the harm has already been done. As Mayawati thundered to the acute embarrassment of the Treasury Benches in the Rajya Sabha, the nation won’t forgive the BJP for its anti-Dalit stance. And Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi airdashed to Gujarat today to meet the victims of the latest attack on Dalits in Una to assure them of every possible help from his party to ensure that the Dalits get justice and the perpetrators of atrocities on them are brought to book.

These developments are bound to have far-reaching implications on the outcome of the UP Assembly elections due in a few months time. Already reports from the State indicate that Mayawati is on a strong wicket there. And the massive protests against the BJP by BSP activists in defence of their party chief in Lucknow today have underscored the complete isolation of the ruling party at the Centre.

July 21                    S.C.

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