The political fight for the Dalits’ cause escalated on Thursday with Congress president Rahul Gandhi accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of having an “anti-Dalit” mindset and the Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah alleging the opposition party had a legacy of insulting the community.
Shah also hurled a jibe at Gandhi by asking him to look at facts when “free from winking”, latching on to the Congress chief’s wink at fellow party MPs in the Lok Sabha last month after hugging Modi during a debate on the no-confidence motion against the government.
Dalits are being openly beaten and crushed in states where the BJP is in power, Gandhi said in a scathing attack against the prime minister at a protest organised by Dalit organisations over the alleged dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
“Everything starts from intent. If he (Modi) would have had place for Dalits in his heart, then policies would have been framed differently. In Gujarat, he brought out a book of his speeches in which he wrote that Dalits get spiritual satisfaction out of cleaning. These lines throw light on his thinking and ideology,” Gandhi told the rally at Jantar Mantar.
He alleged that the prime minister, the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh don’t want Dalits to have a share in education and in progress of the nation.
Targeting Modi, Gandhi said, “His thinking is anti-Dalit. All Dalits and people from the weaker sections know that the prime minister has no place for Dalits in his heart and mind and wants to crush Dalits. That is why we are standing against him.”
He added that the BJP will be defeated in 2019 and a government for Dalits, weaker sections, tribals, farmers formed.
The atrocities act was brought by the Congress and the party will protect it together with the people, Gandhi added.
“Wherever there is a BJP government, in those states Dalits are openly beaten and crushed. We don’t want an India like this. We want an India in which there should be place for everybody, whether Dalits, poor, tribals or minorities...everybody should progress. We will fight for such an India,” he added.
In a series of tweets, Shah said the prime minister’s legacy includes “strongest amendments to SC/ST Act” and setting up of the OBC Commission, while the Congress legacy was about insulting Dalit leaders, opposing the Mandal Commission report and blocking a move to empower the OBC body.
Scoffing at Gandhi, Shah asked him to spend some time on facts “when you are free from winking and disrupting Parliament” and asserted that the NDA government has ensured the strongest amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
“Why are you protesting that?”, Shah asked Gandhi while taking about the new bill that seeks to reverse a recent Supreme Court order that put additional safeguards against arrest of accused in cases of atrocities against Dalits.
Attacking Gandhi, Shah said it would have been good if the Congress leader had spoken about his party’s treatment of Bhim Rao Ambedkar, Babu Jagjivan Ram and Sitaram Kesri.
“Congress way of treating Dalits is patronising and condescending. For years Congress insulted Dalit aspirations,” Shah alleged.
He further asked whether it was a co-incidence that the year Sonia Gandhi joined the Congress, the third front-Congress government opposed reservations in promotions and the year Rahul Gandhi became the party president, it opposed a tough SC/ SCT Act and the OBC Commission. “Anti-backward mindset visible,” Shah tweeted.
“Mr Rahul Gandhi, expecting research and honesty is difficult from you but do read Mr Rajiv Gandhi’s speech during Mandal (row), when he opposed it (its recommendations) tooth & nail. The sense of entitlement and hatred for backward communities comes out so clearly. And today you talk about Dalit welfare!” he said.
Shah further said the Modi government has developed a ‘panchteerth’ -- a reference to five places associated with the life of Ambedkar, while the Congress insulted Dalit leaders and pride.