Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday accused the Modi government of being anti-Dalit. BJP President Amit Shah hit back saying the Congress must stop treating Dalits with a “patronising and condescending” attitude.
“If Modiji had space for Dalits in his heart, then the policies for Dalits would have been different,” Gandhi told a protest rally by Dalits at Jantar Mantar here.
He said when Modi was the Gujarat Chief Minister he wrote in a book that “Daliton ko safai karne se anand milta hai” (Dalits feel happy when they do cleaning work). “This is his (Modi’s) ideology.”
Gandhi said the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was brought by the Congress when his father Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister.
“But that was allowed to be diluted by Modiji. And the judge who diluted the act was given a promotion,” he said, referring to the appointment of Justice A.K. Goel as the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Chairman
Justices Goel and U.U. Lalit had in a March 20 ruling laid down stringent safeguards, including provisions for anticipatory bail and a “preliminary enquiry” before registration of a case under the act, citing instances of its abuse for political or personal reasons.
The ruling angered Dalits. On July 6, Justice Goel retired from the Supreme Court. On the same day, he was appointed the NGT chairman.
The government, however, made an amendment to the 1989 act that overturned the Supreme Court ruling and restored the provision for immediate arrest of an accused. The amendment was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
Gandhi said whereever the BJP was in power, Dalits were being “beaten up and suppressed”.
Pointing out the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a University of Hyderabad PhD student, the Congress leader said Dalits were crushed if they tried to advance in life.
“We don’t want an India where Dalits are suppressed. We want an India where everyone grows. His (Modi’s) thinking is anti-Dalit… The entire country will stand up against him, the BJP and the RSS.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief advised Gandhi to give “some time to facts”, accusing his party of treating Dalits with “patronising and condescending” attitude.
“Rahulji, when you are free from winking and disrupting Parliament, give some time to facts as well. The NDA government, through a Cabinet decision and in Parliament, ensured the strongest amendment to the Act. Why are you protesting that?” Shah said in a series of tweets.
“Would have been good if Congress President would have spoken about his party’s treatment towards Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Babu Jagjivan Ram and Sitaram Kesari. Congress way of treating Dalits is patronizing and condescending. For years Congress insulted Dalit aspirations,” Shah alleged.
The Rajya Sabha MP also said: “Is it 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 becomes Congress President, they oppose a tough SC/ST Act and OBC Commission!”