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'As a BJP MP I must speak against this injustice'

By Prasanna D Zore
January 22, 2016 13:48 IST
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'For a Dalit boy to reach the PhD stage, it requires a lot of pain and hard work. He was a scholar, an intelligent student.'

'This is not about the loss of just an individual, but the loss of this nation.'

Dr Sunil Baliram Gaikwad (pictured, below), the Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament from Latur (Schedule Caste ) constituency, tells Prasanna D Zore/ that grave injustice was done to Rohith Vemula.

A protest over Rohith Vemula's death in Nagpur. Photograph: PTI

IMAGE: A protest over Rohith Vemula's death in Nagpur. Photograph: PTI

Two BJP MPs from Etawah and Bijapur and one former party MP, who is a national executive committee member, have requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and make a statement to assure India's Dalits after the Rohith Vemula suicide case. Do you also want the prime minister to make a statement?

India's Constitutional democracy gives everybody a right to his opinion and views. Terming anybody 'anti-national' just because he exercises this fundamental right is unfair is what I am saying.

Are you saying that the meeting against Yakub Memon's execution is not an anti-national activity?

Just not this student (Rohith Vemula), but so many people met the President of India (to request him to grant Memon clemency).

Was a case of these people being anti-national slapped against them? Were they labelled anti-national? Then, why just Rohith?

The propaganda spread was that the vice-chancellor (Hyderabad Central University VC Appa Rao) had charged Rohith with anti-national activities, but isn't that right reserved to the police? That too after a proper investigation?

Had Rohith been found wanting in his educational/doctoral activities at the university only then would the vice-chancellor have had a right to take appropriate action against Rohit.

Had the police found out about this so-called anti-national activity only then would they have been the right people to charge Rohith with such a charge.

But in the absence of such investigation, and just because somebody is complaining about his (Rohith's) acts as anti-national and the ministry takes cognizance of it and informs the VC about it, is absolutely unfair.

Is this an act of injustice against the Dalits?

100 per cent, this is an act of injustice.

Do you think Rohith Vemula was charged with being an anti-national because he was a Dalit?

This is not what I am saying!

But then you said that no such charge was leveled, or action taken, against those in Delhi who met the President to seek clemency for Yakub Memon?

Yes, then why Rohith?

Sunil Baliram Gaikwad, BJP MP from the Latur (SC) reserved constituency

Why do you think Rohith was charged with being an anti-national?

Look, for some Dalit boy to reach the PhD stage, it requires a lot of pain and hard work. He was doing his doctorate in science. He was a scholar, an intelligent student.

This is not about the loss of just an individual, but the loss of this nation.

Rohith being a Dalit is secondary here. That he was an Indian first is very important for me and an Indian with such good calibre would have added to the nation's intellectual capital, but alas he had to commit suicide.

Rohith was an Indian first. We are all Indians first. That injustice was done to an Indian in India, where our Constitution guarantees us freedom of expression and thought, is injustice.

How fair is it to dub an Indian, an anti-national, for expressing his opinion?

Questions will be asked that if you think Rohith was an Indian first and a Dalit later, then why are you raising your voice only after his suicide and not at other times when non-Dalit students faced such injustice?

Nobody came to me and asked me about my opinions when such instances happened in the past. I am expressing my views today because people are asking me about it. Like you are asking me about my opinion in this case.

I am an elected Member of Parliament from the reserved schedule caste constituency of Latur. But it is not important for me that he suffered injustice because of his caste or his caste came into play after such injustice was done to him.

I categorically state that it is not my contention that he faced this charge because he was a Dalit. Had he not been a Dalit and had such a charge of being an anti-national leveled against somebody else for expressing his opinion, I would have called it unfair.

I too am an SC and I too have done my doctorate in management science from Ambedkar University. Let me tell you honestly that it takes a lot of effort and pain to do a PhD and more so if you are an SC.

A lot of people justified the action taken by the university against Rohith, but anybody can come under pressure when such grave charges are leveled against him.

While a case has been registered against Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya in accordance with the SC/ST Atrocity Act, do you think the HRD ministry should also be charged under the same act?

I don't know who is responsible for that (Rohith's suicide). I don't want to get involved in this headache. As a SC person and as an elected representative of the BJP I must speak against this injustice done to Rohit or any other student in a similar state.

But you are asking me for my reaction just because I am an MP from a reserved constituency.

But for me I am an Indian first, Rohith was an Indian first and it is our fundamental right to express ourselves without any fear.

Have there been protests in Latur against Rohith's suicide?

All the Dalit organisations there have been strongly protesting against the injustice meted out to Rohit.

They have burnt effigies of the HRD minister (Smriti Irani) and expressed their displeasure against the BJP government at the Centre. These protests are also finding their way on social media.

What would you like to tell people in your Lok Sabha constituency?

We are followers of the principles of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Constitution that he helped bring into force. He is the architect of the Indian Constitution and there is nothing we respect more than the Constitution.

Based on this Constitution it is the moral right of the people of my constituency and country to demonstrate against such acts of injustice in a peaceful manner.

Our Constitution gives us the right to demonstrate against such acts of injustice and the people of this country will protest and oppose such acts.

Finally, under Modiji's rule it is the responsibility of this government to protect the people of India from such injustice.

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Prasanna D Zore /