BJP, Congress slug it out over SC/ST Act; accuse each other of being anti-Dalit

Dalit protests against over SC/ST Act had resulted in large-scale violence in different parts of the country on Monday.

BJP, Congress slug it out over SC/ST Act; accuse each other of being anti-Dalit

New Delhi: The BJP and the Congress on Tuesday engaged in a war of words over the issue of Dalit protests. While on the one hand, BJP president Amit Shah and Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Thavarchand Gehlot expressed their commitment to protecting the interests of the Dalit and the tribal community, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for "not uttering a word" on Supreme Court order on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Dalit protests over SC/ST Act by the apex court had resulted in large-scale violence in different parts of the country on Monday.

Shah, in a series of tweets, said a "microscopic minority of dejected and rejected political parties" made the people suffer and sought their apology to "Dalit sisters and brothers".

He also blamed "vested interest groups" for spreading the panic on the issue of reservation for Dalits, saying it is done before every election and asserted that the government will do everything to protect their rights.

"The BJP's stand is clear, which I am once again stating - we fully believe in the Constitution given by Babasaheb and the rights it has given to the SC/ST communities. At every juncture and in all possible ways, the BJP stands shoulder to shoulder with the Dalit community," Shah maintained.

On the other hand, making a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha during the Zero Hour amid ruckus in the House, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh made it clear it was not responsible for the alleged dilution of the SC/ST Act and asserted it was fully committed to protecting the interests of the backward communities. He also appealed to the people to maintain peace and harmony.

"I wish to inform the House that the Government of India was not party in that case. Through the House, I want to assure the people that there has been no dilution whatsoever by my government, rather after coming to power and examining the SC/ST prevention Atrocities Act, we have taken a decision to strengthen it," Rajnath said.

He added that there have been widespread rumours on the issue of reservation which were "false and baseless" and the government was fully committed to protecting the interests of the SC/ST communities.

Another Union Minister Gahlot claimed that history suggests it is the Congress which is anti-Dalit and treated them like a vote bank. "You are trying to make political benefit by fuelling tensions in society but it is not good. You are doing so with an eye on elections."

Meanwhile, Rahul hit out at PM Modi while addressing a public meeting in Karnataka's Shivamogga on the fifth leg of his tour of poll-bound Karnataka.

"Rohit Vemula is murdered. Dalits are beaten up in Una (Gujarat) but the PM does not speak a word on it. Atrocities on Dalits and tribals are increasing and the SC/ST act has been diluted. PM Modi prefers not to speak a word," he said.

Rahul also compared the status of SC/ST welfare in Karnataka with the Modi government's actions on the issue. He claimed that more than half of the money released by the Modi government across the country for SC/ST welfare was being spent by Karnataka itself on the Dalits and tribals.

On his part, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma demanded that Shah apologise to the country for what the government had "done to Dalits". He alleged there was a larger agenda to weaken the security net and legal protection given to members of Scheduled Castes and Tribes under the Act.

Sharma also hit out at Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, accusing him of spreading lies on the issue by claiming the government was not a party to the SC/ST issue in court and demanded that he also tender an apology to the country.

The government was a party to the case before the court, he said, displaying apex orders which showed that the additional solicitor general had appeared on behalf of the Central government during the hearing of the case.

(With PTI inputs)