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Mainstream Weekly, VOL LVI No 15 New Delhi March 31, 2018

Mamata, Ram Navami Violence, Dalit Anxiety

Saturday 31 March 2018, by SC



When West Bengal CM and Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee arrived in the Capital on March 27 to hold discussions with several Opposition party leaders, she was speaking about building a non-Congress, non-BJP Federal Front. But on March 28 evening after meeting UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Delhi CM and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal as well as dissident BJP leaders (Shatrughan Sinha, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie) she said: “The country wants us to fight them (the BJP) on the basis of a one-on-one formula.” Elaborating further, she explained: “...It should be a one-on-one fight against the BJP by each party in their places of strength and others should support it. Like in Karnataka, the Congress is strong... it will fight the BJP one-on-one.”

The importance of Mamata’s meetings in New Delhi was heightened by the BJP’s reaction to these interactions on the part of the West Bengal CM. It pointed out that Mamata was in Delhi when riots were taking place in the State. As a Union Minister said “...Her visit reminds us of the old saying: ‘Nero fiddled while Rome burnt.’”

Actually the Minister was referring to the violence during Ram Navami celebrations in West Bengal that left three persons dead and two dozen injured in clashes. The violence was primarily triggered by the BJP workers taking out processions in several parts armed with weapons like swords, trishuls etc. (which were prohibited by the State authorities). Such violence took place in Purulia, Murshidabad, West Bardhaman, Asansol, Raniganj. The Centre asked the State Government to send a report on these incidents while offering paramilitary forces from the Centre to control the violence. Incidentally similar violence also occurred in several places in Bihar—Aurangabad, Munger and Samastipur—but the Centre neither sought any report on it from the Bihar Government nor offered paramilitary forces there thus highlighting its double-standards. Predictably the West Bengal Government rejected the Centre’s offer on this score.

At the same time the Supreme Court’s recent order on the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Atrocities (Prevention) Act, that is viewed by the SC/ST community at large as a move to dilute the Act, has caused concern among the Dalit MPs who have called on the PM seeking the Centre’s intervention in the matter by exhorting him to file a review petition against the March 20 ruling. Modi is learnt to have given a patient hearing but made no commitment to intervene. Simultaneously the Opposition MPs, led by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, also called on the President in this regard. The key demand of the memorandum they submitted to the President related to the filing of the review petition in the SC.

A Dalit MP from the BJP has spoken out on this issue. The MP from Bahraich, Sadhvi Savitri Bai Phoole, called upon those in favour of reservation, irrespective of their political affiliation, to wage a resolute struggle in defence of the Bahujan society.

All this reflects the restive mood among Dalits across the country, something the Union Government is choosing to ignore for the present. It can surely do so but at its own peril.

March 29 S.C.   

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