'People (from the Brahmin community) feel that if they belonged to some other community, their matters would've been resolved more easily.'
'It is because of the government's mistreatment and ill-will that this feeling has got into the community'
Congress leader and former Union minister Jitin Prasada is working towards 'uniting all Brahmins' in Uttar Pradesh through his Brahman Chetna Parishad, a programme that, he says, was launched in 2017 but has gathered pace over the past few months.
Prasada says the Brahmin community is at the receiving end of the 'dismal' law and order situation in UP and no one is paying attention to their plight.
There is a feeling among a section of Brahmins in the state that the government, headed by Yogi Adityanath -- born Ajay Singh Bisht, a Thakur -- is targeting the community, which has strengthened after the police encounter of gangster Vikas Dubey, a Brahmin.
Political parties are quick to seize the opportunity, with the Samajwadi Party promising a 108-feet statue of Parshuram -- the legendary warrior-saint whom the Brahmins hold in high regard -- to Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati promising to build hospitals and guest houses in the name of the saint.
Prasada has also demanded that the UP government restore Parshuram Jayanti as a state holiday.
He had also written an open letter to all Congress MLAs in UP, asking them to effectively raise the issue of Brahmins's security during the monsoon session of the assembly.
Facing criticism from liberal circles for his Brahman Chetna Parishad initiative, from which the state unit of the Congress had dissociated itself, Prasada makes it clear he only intends to work for the community on a personal level and that his party has nothing to do with it.
"Brahmin Chetna Parishad is an independent organisation. And being from the Congress doesn't mean I cannot work for the community," Prasada tells Rediff.com's Utkarsh Mishra.
The Brahmin Chetna Parishad says it aims to highlight atrocities against Brahmins and help the community fight government apathy. What kind of help does the organisation provide to the community?
Brahmin Chetna Parishad was established in 2017 when I held Brahmin Sammelans.
Then I took Chetna Yatras against the denial of justice to victims of violent incidents across the state in which mostly Brahmins were killed.
We took out yatras in Basti, Amethi, Jhansi, Meerut, Mainpuri where Brahmin victims are struggling for justice and criminals are protected by the system.
After the lockdown was imposed, we decided to hold a Brahma Chetna Samvad online, which was meant to be a platform for the community to air their grievances and a way to find out why the community is being targeted... Is it because of the government's malaise? And why is the community feeling insecure?
Critics are questioning the timing of your initiative, especially after the encounter of gangster Vikas Dubey.
But this was going on from much earlier. Could we've predicted that Vikas Dubey will be killed in an encounter?
And even in his case see how questions were raised on the encounter itself. It was the court's job to punish him, but instead the government did. It was also said that a lot of secrets were buried with his killing.
The encounter is now being probed, but the behaviour to which his son and other family members were subjected to was there for everyone to see. Where does it happen, that you treat the minor son of an offender like a criminal?
The widow of Dubey's accomplice, who was married only nine days ago, was also arrested.
All these things put a question mark over the government's conduct.
It also makes the community suspicious that they are being treated unjustly.
Do you think Brahmins in UP are being targeted only for being Brahmins?
A lot of people in a lot of places told me this.
Right from registering a report with the police to other matters, there's a feeling among the people that if they belonged to some other community, they would have been heard and their matters would have been resolved more easily.
So is it because of the government's apathy or are they being targeted by another community?
I told you it is because of the government's mistreatment and ill-will that this feeling has got into the community that no one is there for them.
Is this the case only in UP or is the condition of Brahmins bad in the rest of the country as well?
I'm only talking of Uttar Pradesh.
It is being alleged that this initiative is an attempt by the Congress to woo Brahmin votes. What do you say about that?
Brahmin Chetna Parishad is an independent organisation. And being from the Congress doesn't mean I cannot work for the community.
I will raise the voice and issues of people. This is social work. No elections are happening right now to do this for votes.
If people are being murdered and the government is not helping them in getting justice and we're raising their voices, where's the question of votes?
Is it a crime to call it out where a wrong has been committed?
The UP Congress chief has disassociated the party from this initiative. Why couldn't the party stand with you?
Because this has nothing to do with the Congress party? Why would they associate with this? He is the president of the UP Congress Committee, not of the Brahman committee.
Does it go against the secularist image of the Congress party to support this initiative?
Please ask the critics to meet the families of victims who have been killed and who are denied justice by this government while the criminals are being protected at their behest.
I felt it right to raise the voices of such people. What's wrong in it?
Does it in any way threaten your position in the party?
What I'm doing is for the people and for the community. I'm doing it on a personal level. The party has nothing to do with this.
We're not opposing anyone. We're only asking for our rights.
Parties like the SP or the BSP, who have been your allies against the Bharatiya Janata Party, are most likely to not welcome this initiative.
Ask them about it. I can't speak for them.
Analysing the 2014 electoral loss of the Congress, the A K Antony Committee said that the party lost Hindu votes as it was seen as only serving the interests of Muslims. Does this initiative wish to counter that image in any way?
Have you seen the report? Has anyone seen such a report? Then how can you say this? Tell me who saw this report?
I can't comment on fabricated stories.