The government filed a review petition in the apex court against the court’s earlier order.
New Delhi: Apprehending that the dalit groups’ anger over dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act could hit the BJP hard in poll-bound Karnataka and other states, the Modi government on Monday asserted that its “commitment to SC/ST welfare is unwavering and time tested”.
The party also vowed to argue the matter with “full authority” in the Supreme Court for the reconsideration of its March 20 verdict which was perceived by many as “anti-dalit”.
The government filed a review petition in the apex court against the court’s earlier order. Amid violent protests by dalit organisations in different parts of the country, including BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, party president Amit Shah held a meeting at the party headquarters to assess the situation.
The meeting was also attended by Union minister Piyush Goyal and national general secretaries Anil Jain and Bhupendra Yadav. The BJP also listed out the work done by the NDA government for the SC/ST communities.
Supporting the “Bharat Bandh”, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet, “Keeping dalits at the lowest rung of Indian society is in the DNA of the RSS/BJP. Whoever dares challenge this position is suppressed with violence... thousands of my Dalit brothers and sisters have come out on the streets to demand protection of their rights from the (Narendra) Modi government. We (Congress and I) salute them.”
BSP chief Mayawati accused the BJP of indulging in politics of caste.
“The central government took a lot of time in filing the review petition against the SCs/STs Act judgment. Had they filed the review petition in time, there wouldn’t be any protests or Bharat Bandh,” she said.
The BJP dubbed Mr Gandhi as a “political vulture” out to seek “advantage” and listed the government’s actions in favour of the marginalised sections, including giving the country a dalit President. The BJP also reminded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself “belongs to the lower section of society and this is something Rahul Gandhi cannot digest”.
Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Today, we have filed a review petition in the Supreme Court... It is important to note that the government was not a party in the proceedings at all... On behalf of the ministry of social justice and empowerment, every comprehensive review has been filed and the government, with due respect, does not agree with the reasoning given by the apex court.”
He said as far as the March 20 verdict is concerned “senior lawyers of the government in the apex court will argue this matter with all their legal preparations and authority that this judgment needs to be reconsidered”.
Alleging that there was a “poisonous campaign” against the Sangh over the apex court’s order, RSS’s Bhaiiya Joshi said that laws like the SCs/STs Act should be invoked stringently and supported the Centre’s review plea.
Mr Joshi said that the Sangh has always opposed discrimination and harassment on the basis of caste.
As the NDA government came under attack from the Congress over the alleged dilution of the SCs/STs Act, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) chief and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan joined the BJP in slamming Mr Gandhi.
The LJP chief said that Mr Gandhi has no moral right to attack the BJP over dalit issues as the latter’s party did nothing for the community or its icon B.R. Ambedkar.
The Congress also held the central government responsible for the loss of life and damage to properties during violent protests by dalit outfits and accused the Centre of taking the issue “lightly”. The Opposition party alleged that the Modi government was not interested in the welfare of dalits and weaker sections of society.
Senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge alleged that atrocities on dalits and minorities have been on the rise ever since the NDA came to power in 2014.
Mr Azad hit out at the Centre saying the SCs/STs Act was “weakened and diluted because the central government did not represent the case properly before the court”.
Rejecting the allegations, BJP’s Bhupendra Yadav said the NDA’s commitment to SC/ST welfare is “unwavering and time tested”.
Mr Yadav tweeted, “They have been trying to divide the country for years now. Be it Rohit Vemula or any other issue, Rahul Gandhi has always tried to divide Indians. But dalits have very well recognised this game. Since 2014, Dalits of our country have clearly rejected them in state after state...”